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Friendship through the ages...

My name is Diane Wilson and life is indeed beautiful. I realized recently that I graduated from high school 40 years ago this year and I’m proud to say that many of those high school friendships have survived. People talk about six degrees of separation, and I think we all have a little of that in our lives. I know that I certainly do, and I’d like to share that with you.

I’m writing this column (blog) for an organization called Heart for Africa Canada. This organization is a big part of my friendship journey, and I am now able to share this wonderful organization with many of the friends I have made over the past 40 years since high school. My connection to A Beautiful Life Magazine started a little over 40 years ago during my high school years and with the publisher of the magazine, Ronnie Swais. Ronnie and I were very good friends and had many crazy adventures together that we still talk about to this day. We shared a love for beauty, and both ended up attending Seneca College for their Cosmetics Retail Management program (different years). When Ronnie opened her own salon and wedding beauty business, I was more than happy to help when she needed me on a part-time basis as I made my way with my own career at Shoppers Drug Mart as a Cosmetics Manager/Store Manager.

This brings us to my next friendship story, Ian Maxwell. I met Ian when I was a cosmetics manager at Shoppers Drug Mart, and he was my L’Oréal Hair Care representative. We formed a fast friendship and he in turn introduced me to Janine Willis (now his lovely wife). Ian was quick to talk about us both to the other and so it was destined for us to meet and become great friends. Janine and I felt like we had known each other forever when we met in person. I knew in my heart that this was a friendship that was going to last through the ages. With the birth of their children (Spencer and Chloe), a new bond was formed with these two beautiful children. I’m pleased to say that now I’m getting the opportunity to work alongside Chloe as an adult and watch her flourish in her role with Heart for Africa Canada.

In my early thirties, I had taken a leave of absence from my job due to illness and both Ian and Janine were so supportive of me, and it was a kindness I will never forget. After a year it was time to look for a new job and Janine and Ian offered me the opportunity to come work for Onyx Marketing Group and it was the best decision I could have made. I worked with great people, clients and suppliers and have made many lifelong friendships from my time there and at other marketing agencies. It’s amazing how people come into our lives and really do help to shape it, I know that is true for me and I hope that I in turn have helped others in some way along their journey.

9/11 changed the lives of so many of us and really was the start of Janine’s journey (more on that to come in another article). With Janine in NYC with clients on that fateful morning and Ian on a flight from Toronto to Chicago, it was a day that none of us will forget. Little did we know it was also going to be the beginning of Heart for Africa and a journey we are all proud to be a part of. They say that when one door closes another one opens, it’s true. Don’t be afraid to embrace change and listen to your heart when it points you in a direction. Life is a highway and there are many exits to be explored.

Fast forward quite a few years and I found myself in Orlando, Florida at a convention with a client and then I was planning on taking some personal vacation time after the show. Ian, Janine and the kids had moved to Alpharetta, Georgia from Canada to start Heart for Africa and it had been a while since I had spoken to them, and Janine invited me to come stay with them for a few days. Since I was planning on going to South Carolina to visit my relatives, I looked forward to seeing them again. I was also nervous as it had been a while and a lot had happened in that time. When I finally arrived at their house after going through rush hour traffic in Atlanta (do not recommend this), Janine was standing at the top of her driveway waving at me and I felt time slip away like it had only been yesterday. Seeing the Maxwell’s again was amazing, and it also gave me a real introduction to what was being planned in Eswatini, Africa. They had just purchased the land that is now known as Project Canaan and were holding a charity golf tournament to raise money. I was quickly given a volunteer role to monitor one of the sponsored holes with a lovely lady named Cheryl who has since become a wonderful friend too.

At some point during the day, Janine suggested to Ian that he take me over to the Heart for Africa offices and show me around. That was the first day I got a glimpse of what this wonderful organization was going to become. As I looked at the map I could hear the passion and excitement in Ian’s voice as he explained what they were planning. He talked about their vision for the land and how they were going to change lives in the tiny country then known as Swaziland. That day changed my life and has made me want to be a better person and help make the world a better place.

Over the years I have supported them as best I could and tried my best to share their story. Their story continues to evolve, and Project Canaan continues to grow. There are currently 335 (as of August 11) children who now have security, love, laughter, and a chance for an education because the Maxwell’s said YEBO (which means YES in Siswati). With Chloe at the marketing helm for Heart for Africa Canada, the YEBO advisory council has been formed to help her spread awareness for this wonderful organization. This council is made up of volunteers who want to help make a difference and truly do have a Heart for Africa and everything they are doing. I was honoured to be asked to be the Chairperson for the council this year and for the chance to work alongside Chloe and some of the most kind, caring people I have met throughout the years. Thank you to all of you for saying YEBO and volunteering your time and expertise. We can all make a difference in the world and make it a better place.

The best part of my friendships is that I get to share those amongst all my friends. No matter what stage of life we are at, old friendships can lead to new friendships with people you help to connect. When you meet special people in your life, share them with others so they can experience that joy.

A very special thank you to Ronnie and Krista at A Beautiful Life magazine for listening to our story and for offering your help to us and Heart for Africa Canada. You are both amazing women with beautiful hearts. Ronnie, 40 years later and I’m ready for our next crazy adventure together! Chloe and I are looking forward to sharing many more stories with you and we hope you enjoy getting to know Heart for Africa Canada and the HOPE it has brought to so many.

To learn more about Heart for Africa, visit them at

Old friendships renewed and new friendships await.

Until next time, thanks for listening.


(the Siswati word for friendship),



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