Last Saturday I became a mom. I welcomed into my life a bouncing baby boy, who weighed in at approximately 1,500 pounds.

The truth is, I became a foster mom. To an elephant.

His name is Elkerama, and he lives in Nairobi – not here in Toronto with me, much to Bob Barker’s (and probably my neighbour’s) relief.

I adopted “Elkie” (my nickname for the tyke) through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), which has fostered over 250 orphaned elephants through their online fostering program. These infant elephants have lost their family due to the illegal poaching crisis and would have perished without their mother’s milk if not the for the help of this tremendous foundation.

After watching the documentary Gardeners of Eden, a gripping (and sob-inducing) first-hand experience at the devastating ivory trade, which included a look into the operations at the elephant orphanage, I wondered – through snot-filled-Dawson Leery-ugly-crying – “How can I help? What can I do?” And, thus, with a click of a PayPal button, Elkerama came into my life.

I tell you this not to brag nor to entice you to adopt a baby elephant of your own (although I do think everyone should have a baby elephant), but to perhaps convince you to find something – a cause, a charity – that you’re passionate about, because it really is such a beautiful thing to experience.

I’ve been involved with animal welfare since I was ten years old. After watching a National Geographic VHS on Mexico in grade five, which highlighted the hundreds of endangered sea turtles being hunted for medicine, food and decoration, I told my mom, “I want to help the animals.” Soon, I was volunteering with Animal Alliance of Canada, watching footage of rabbits undergoing cosmetic testing and protesting outside of Queen’s Park – all before the age of twelve.

Somewhere along the way – let’s blame puberty, university, and subsequently, rent – my dedication to animal rights waned. But my passion didn’t – it was just dormant. Through a twist of fate and timing, I was reintroduced to animal rights and environmentalism at time when I was going through a rough patch. Bad breakup, lost job opportunity, just a general feeling of blues and blah. Knowing that I was helping something outside of myself combated my stress and anxiety, reinvigorating my sense of self and well-being. (That’s not a surprise: volunteering is known to improve mood and help you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times.)

Serving a cause that I am passionate about continues to give me a sense of purpose and hunger for life. I’m more at peace, and, ultimately, happier – despite the depressing facts and figures (like that elephants will die out in ten years) that make me cry myself to sleep.

Charity is such a personal thing. People will instinctively be drawn to issues and causes to which they have a personal connection, and that just makes sense. You can’t fight for something that you don’t believe in. It doesn’t really work that way. It’s like karmic law, or something. There are some people who don’t like cats, so they obviously wouldn’t be inclined to help them out (although, personally, I wouldn’t want to know those people). But if there’s something you are drawn to, research it. Investigate it. See what fits for you. I understand the time commitment thing. You’ve got dinner to make, and people to Tinder, so volunteering somewhere might cramp your style. Without pointing out that you might meet new friends and connections while volunteering (okay, so I did point that out) there are organizations like the DHWT’s fostering program, which allow you to help out even though you’re hundreds of thousands of miles away. (And did you know that giving away money actually relieves financial stress? Yep – there have been studies.)

Donating some of your time and/or money doesn’t make you better than anyone else (I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of what altruism means), but it can help you better yourself, while you’re bettering someone else.

And if you’re uncertain whether your help will really make a difference, heed Elkerama’s grandma’s/my mom’s advice. After adopting Elkerama, I said, “I don’t know if I’m doing enough,” to which she replied: “It’s what you can do right now, so it’s more than enough.”

After all, no one has become poor from giving – and there’s always a tax-deductible receipt.