When my friend Jason Dehni told me about the concept of Artbound and asked if I would like to be involved, I answered “YES!’ without any hesitation. The idea of being able to utilize my personal and professional network to raise awareness and funds for children in need excited me tremendously. It is my personal belief that if you are in a position when you can afford the time, money and energy needed to help those less fortunate than yourself then you are morally obligated to help in anyway possible.
So far to date we have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, funded and built 2 schools, supported an orphanage, delivered beds to homes and paid for new class rooms, teachers salaries and art supplies. Looking back on the beginning of these experiences I remember feeling quite proud and noble for taking the time to help these people in need. Ironically, each one of these experiences has filled me with gratitude, humility and a deeper appreciation for everything that we are so fortunate to have living here in Canada. These people who have absolutely nothing and face a very challenging future taught me so much about life and gave me back more than I ever could have imagined.
For our inaugural Artbound project we raised over 250K at our fundraiser event The pARTy at our venue Maison Mercer. The event was a huge success and many people congratulated us on throwing a fundraiser that felt more like a full on party than a stuffy, boring function. With the funds raised to support Free The Children with their first all girls high school, our group ventured half-way around the world to build with the bricks we bought and meet the girls that would learn in the rooms we created for them.
Artbound is made up of individuals of all different ages, ethnicities and professions. Most are involved in a creative and artistic fields. On this particular trip we had a few special people join us; Jillian Vanstone, a Principle dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, Seamus O’Reagan, former host of Canada AM and Grammy award winning artist Nelly Furtado. Together our dynamic group had an unforgettable trip creating memories that will last a lifetime. During our time in the Masai Mara we learnt what the day to day life was life for the Masai women hearing about their challenges and hardships and realizing the potential problems the young teenage girls may endure if they don’t find a way out of the village. We had the chance to meet the parents of the children who would be learning at our school as well as spend time with the young girls and discover their hidden artistic talents.
The standout moment that I will never forget that truly embodies our presence in Kenya was a spontaneous performance by Nelly Furtado and the Kenyan Boys Choir. What was supposed to be a talent showcase by the choir evolved into a hair raising musical experience when Nelly and the choir started singing together.
This trip truly changed and touched every single one of us and was a beautiful start to something wonderful we had created.
After some time to regroup and plan our strategy moving forward, the Artbound team once again raised the money necessary to build our second school, this time in India working with Free The Children once again. This trip for me was a very fulfilling personal experience as it was truly a full circle moment. To travel back to the country where my father was born and give back to young children who I could have shared the same circumstances had my parents not had the courage and determination to leave their home land for a better life was truly gratifying in so many ways.
The experience from beginning to end was truly incredible and motivated us to continue to grow and take Artbound to the next level.
In July 2016 Artbound became an official registered charity. This meant that we can now raise money and support which ever charity organization that we choose. Having previously met the Our Guatemala team earlier that year, Dana Shalit our team leader felt that the need for us to help in Guatemala was necessary. This time our mission would not include building a school, instead we were supporting a local initiative called The Bunkbed Project which involved us raising money to pay for bunkbeds which we personally delivered, installed and furnished with bedding and pillows. The state of some of the home that we entered was truly heart breaking with some families sharing 1 bed between 4-5 people and others sleeping on wooden pallets on the floor. In addition to supporting The Bunkbed Project we also spent time at a local orphanage meeting young infants and children playing with them, painting with them and bringing gifts for Christmas. The majority of these children had been abandoned by their parents and had no known family to take care of them. The incredible care givers at The Love of Patricia orphanage truly love and care for these children until they turn 17 years old and they they are on their own.
Although we didn’t have the opportunity to physically leave our mark by building walls, we definitely impacted many peoples lives during our time in Antigua. One of my personal highlights was the epic pizza party that we threw for the children at the Backyard School. After a day of colouring, dance lessons and gifting the generous soul who created the independently funded public school for local children with a projector and teaching supplies, we picked up 100 pizzas to share with the children, parents and teachers while jamming away to the Biebs.
Watch our Guatemala experience here
This past November most of our Artbound team, ambassadors and friends travelled to a remote Nicaraguan village to build classrooms and arts programs, which we funded with our new fund-raising platform Creative Deeds. Our partner Waves of Hope is a charity started by three awesome Canadians who built a resort and a high school in El Manzano and continue to have a day-to-day impact there. Each day started with breakfast by the ocean followed by morning surf sessions before our day of building began. During our time there we had the chance to meet the teachers and students and learn how the new classrooms we funded will help change the lives of these youth. Thanks to our generous friends who supported this initiative we exceeded our goal and raised enough money to also pay for a school bus which will help more students get to class. This trip was probably the most “vacation” like due to our beautiful ocean front accommodations at Tapas & Surf but it was without some excitement and danger as it just so happens that not only was Hurricane Otis on its was to the Nicaraguan border but just 4 kilometers off the coast of our beautiful beach a 7.1 earthquake rocked the town of Chinandega which stirred up fears of a potential Tsunami.
It is my personal belief that if you are in a position when you can afford the time, money and energy needed to help those less fortunate than yourself then you are morally obligated to help in anyway possible – ZF
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