Walking for a Cause: Genesis Community of the Arts

June 1, 2014 in Inspiration

Duane at Paco Real

I met Duane in a bar.

I was out with my friend Chris, tucked into the corner of our favourite evening spot, next to the open fireplace, sharing a beer: he never wants a whole one and neither do I. You never know what you’re going to get at Paco Real on a given evening. Sometimes it’s hippie kids busking for a buck to make their next bus fare. Other times, it’s free salsa lessons. This evening, it was a lifetime friendship, gift wrapped with a bow… well, with dreadlocks anyway.

His eyes were the first thing I noticed. They are, indeed, the window to the soul; intensely black and snapping with happiness and vigor. His smile was a close second. “Wow!” Chris whispered. Indeed. This guy positively drips joy. When he picked up his guitar, I fell in love.

Duane is one of those rare people who exudes optimism and confidence but at the same time humility and peace. He knows who he is, and he’s so comfortable in his own skin that everyone else is in theirs as well. He lives his life by the seat of his pants, by the strings of his guitar, and out of a deep faith that everything is going to work out just fine… and it does.

We’ve fed Duane meals in several countries. We’ve enjoyed his music in bars, in our living room, and on hot summer island days in an attempt to raise money for his projects. We’ve picked him up from bus stations at midnight, and we’ve shared hostel bunk beds. He’s taught my kids, laughed at my kitchen table, slept on my couch and in my little brother’s bed, and with every layer of his story that we uncover, I come to admire him more.

How many people do you know who walk away from everything they know, chase a dream, and make it happen, with just a guitar and a beautiful voice? How many mid-thirties single guys do you know who set up their whole lives around children that are not their own and then support those kids’ educations single handedly by singing? Yeah, he’s that kind of cool. The deep well of goodwill, generous to a fault, loving to the extreme kind of cool.

Duane, Montreal

Duane’s passion is empowering disadvantaged children through the Arts.

He spent several years living in Honduras, teaching art and music to kids and creating a free school for the, staffed by volunteers, out of his house. He funded it single handedly. He has a firm belief that the way out of extreme poverty is found through creativity, as creativity that is not fostered in the poorest places in the world because it’s way down the list on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. No one has time for afternoons experimenting with blue paint when they’re worrying about where the next meal is coming from, you know?

Out of Duane’s love for kids and his devotion to the arts has grown Genesis Community of the Arts. With a newly minted non-profit status and a board made up of a patchwork of artists, big time charity directors and little ol’ me, he’s out to take his project to the next level, and Jade and I are devoting every step of this walk to supporting his vision.

 Did you know that it costs less than $5000 to sponsor a teacher in Honduras for a year? 

That teacher can reach hundreds of kids with visual, dramatic, and musical arts education that they would otherwise never be exposed to.

I’ve been to Honduras; right to the very village that Duane’s pilot project is in.

I was there the week before I met Duane. I have looked into the eyes of the children in that village myself and I can still see the smiles on their faces. These are kids like yours, and like mine. Kids who deserve the best of what the world has to offer, but who aren’t getting it. Honduras is one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the western hemisphere. It’s a place that desperately needs positive options for young people, and empowering skills built into young lives. Duane has devoted his life to this mission. I’ve come alongside him. Jade has met him and shares our passion for bringing the Arts and education to these children.

Duane and Millers

So, we’re asking you to give.

  • We’re turning 40 this year. Would you consider donating one dollar for each year we’ve been alive, instead of giving us a birthday gift?
  • How much are you going to spend on your kids’ art supplies for school this year? $25? $100? Would you consider donating a matching amount for a child just as precious as yours in Honduras?
  • Does your child take music lessons? How much does that cost? Would you be willing to give the equivalent amount to provide a year’s worth of music for the kids Duane serves?
  • Perhaps you just wrote a check as a gift to a new graduate who has completed her education. Could you invest an equal amount in giving other kids the same chance?
  • Maybe you could give up your coffee on the way to work this week and put that $3 a day into buying paint and glue instead?
  • We’re walking 800 kilometers, about 500 miles. Perhaps you can pledge a quarter per kilometer, or get crazy and give a whole dollar per mile?
  • Maybe you’d be willing to eat rice and beans three times this week, like the Honduran kids do, and donate your grocery budget for three days to feed the creativity of underprivileged children?
  • We’re going to walk for about 35 days. Would you be willing to put a jar on your kitchen table and put one dollar in for each day we walk? Or would you be willing to go door to door and collect a donation each day for the 35 days we’re on the trail?
  • Maybe your kids could have an art sale, or a bake sale, or a lemonade stand to raise money for kids just like them and they could donate the proceeds. Kids, helping kids!

Meet Duane…

Duane, Wolfe Island

July 12, just four days after Jade and I arrive home in Canada, we’re having an “on the ground” fundraiser for Genesis Community of the Arts. It’s going to be at the Wolfe Island Grill, on Wolfe Island, Ontario from 3-6 p.m. Duane is coming to play and sing for us. We’ve got donated items for a silent auction. It will be a combination welcome home party and last big push towards providing support for the school. If you’re in the area, we’d LOVE to have you join us. Mark your calendars now and we’ll make sure you get details closer to time.

In the meantime, we’re going to go take a walk.

  • If you wish you could go with us: donate.
  • If you are with us in spirit: donate.
  • If you support the spirit of our adventure: donate.
  • If you want to wish us a happy birthday: donate.
  • If you want to encourage us on the hard days: donate.

On the days that are hard, what will keep us moving forward is knowing that you’re behind us and that together we’re making a difference in some very important little lives.