Ignite the Night

As a person who has been privileged to have travelled to many beautiful places across the world and to have made life-long memories, I often think of people in some of these distant places who are not so fortunate and are affected by crime, malnutrition, domestic abuse, political instability, various forms of exploitation and many other stresses that most of us in the Western developed nations never even get exposed to.

That’s why I quite frequently write about, visit or do interviews with people and organizations that make a difference. It is my small contribution towards bringing awareness to some important initiatives that make the world a better place, one project or one village at a time. Maybe some of these articles or interviews will inspire a few people to get involved themselves….

I just recently came back from a trip to Mexico myself, and the extreme contrasts between rich and poor are astounding, actually downright shocking. Most of Latin America and the developing world are experiencing these issues, but there are some individuals and organizations out there who are investing time, money and resources to help people, locally and in far-away places.

Elinor Schwob, in charge of fundraising for the Planeterra Foundation, is here to talk to us about a special event called “Ignite the Nite” which will bring together a variety of performance artists and circus performers to raise funds for a very special project for street children in Peru. Elinor recently came back from Cusco, Peru, and had a chance to meet some of the street children and see some of the squalid conditions that they live in. She can attest to the dire need for help and will tell us about her impressions.

Street children in Cusco, Peru

1. Please tell us about your upcoming fundraising event. When and where is the fundraising event going to be held and how can I purchase a ticket?

The Planeterra Foundation, G.A.P Adventures’ non-profit organization, is pleased to announce its kick off fundraiser for 2006, Ignite the Night, to be held on Thursday, May 4, at 7 pm at Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewery.

Tickets must be purchased in ADVANCE – they are available until Thursday, May 4 at 5pm. Tickets can be held at Will Call to be picked up at the event.

2. What will be the program?

Therewill be circus acts with fire spinners, blacklite breakdancers, aerial silk artists, aerial hoop artists, plate spinners, a 3 man arcrobatic group, aerial ropes, trapeze artists & more!

3. Please tell us about the Silent Auction.

The attendees at our fundraiser will have the opportunity to participate in a Silent Auction and bid on the following items:

– Fuji film digital camera -S3000
– Round trip air ticket Toronto to Lisbon with Air Transat
– Professional Chef services – a gourmet 4 course dinner for 4 in your home by Vanessa Yeung (Bistro at Home)
– Gift Certificate for a pair of Blunstone boots
– Framed Guatemalan Market Photo – by Paul Teolis
– Diesel Fitness Memberships
– Personal Training by Tranz4m Inc.
– Stratford Theatre Get A Way – 2 tickets to the Stratford Theatre & overnight stay at Bentley’s
– Platinum Seats to an upcoming ACC event
– Hand Crafted Jewellery by Tanya Tkachenko
– Peruvian Woven Table linen made by The women of the Ccaccaccollo Community, weaving book &aArt piece by JJ Nicol
– Manicure & Pedicure at the Beauty Exchange
– Sky Dive from SWOOP – Independant Jump
– Dinner for 6 at the Bright Pearl Restaurant
– G.A.P Adventures trips to Costa Rica & Peru
– Dinner for 2 at Thuet Restaurant
– Dinner at Focaccia Restaurant

4. What is the objective of this fundraising event and what project/organization is the money going to?

All proceeds from this event are going toward our project for street children in Cuzco, Peru, the heart of what was once the Inca Empire. Amidst the stunning architecture, mountainous surroundings and rich culture is the bitter reality of numerous children either working or begging in the streets. Many of the children you see shining shoes or selling candies, cigarettes and postcards live at home and also attend school.

However, approximately 35% of children working in the streets are unable to cope with the stress of both working and going to school. This often results in giving up their studies in order to help provide for their families. Other children leave home because they have been abused neglected or abandoned. These children often end up living on the streets of Cuzco where nights can drop to -5 C. Some of these children survive by consuming alcohol, drugs, collecting leftover food found in the garbage and sniffing glue to help relieve their hunger pains. In order to survive, some of these children resort to begging and prostitution.

In order to support children who live in extreme poverty in Cuzco, we are working together with Inti Runakunaq Wasin (IRW), Quechua for “house of the people of the sun”, a local Peruvian non-profit organization that acts as a haven for children in need. IRW currently rents a small apartment space and is operated by a group of social workers, teachers and other professionals who volunteer their time to provide support programs for children and their families.

Children are given the opportunity to voluntarily drop-in and participate in a variety of classes and workshops that teach them valuable skills including reading, writing, carpentry, handicrafts, shoe repair, cooking, music and English. Our goal of raising $100,000 will allow them to purchase a piece of land in Cuzco and to construct a bigger home which will offer support programs to 100 children and their families. It will provide IRW with long-term security and provide the children with a place where they can grow with love with people they trust. It will also be a place where they may develop into people with strong values, with self-esteem, with dreams and hope for the future.

5. The moneys raised will be matched and administration costs will be covered for this project by G.A.P Adventures. Please tell us more about that.

G.A.P Adventures matches all individual donations to Planeterra. G.A.P has sponsored this event by convering administration and event costs.G.A.P has also donated 2 trips for the auction.

Elinor with a local girl in Peru

6. Please tell us more about Planeterra, its history, goals and the programs that it’s involved in.

Our Mission: The Planeterra Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of people and communities around the world through support of community projects, local organizations and international charities.

Who are we? The Planeterra Foundation was developed by G.A.P Adventures, a Canadian adventure travel company that offers environmentally, culturally and socially responsible tours worldwide. The Planeterra Foundation provides us as a company, our travellers and other donors with a way to give back to the people and places we visit on our tours. We currently are funding 13 projects in 9 countries.

How do we work? G.A.P Adventures pays all administration costs and matches each donation dollar-for-dollar so that 100% of each donation goes to support Planeterra projects. By identifying projects and organizations that specialize in different areas, our donors are provided with a variety of worthwhile projects to choose from and support. Based on the individual needs of each project, resources are delivered on an annual basis in the form of funds and/or materials.

How are our accounts managed? Donations made to support our local community projects are matched by G.A.P Adventures and managed and distributed by the Planeterra Foundation. Donations made to the international charities we support and to our long-term endowment fund are managed by the Tides Canada Foundation, a national public foundation dedicated to creating partnerships with donors and charitable organizations to organize resources for social change and environmental sustainability.

7. Why is there such a strong commitment at G.A.P towards making a difference?

Being a responsible eco tour operator is at the heart of what G.A.P Adventures is all about. From the start, G.A.P has been committed to offering low-impact tours that benefit traveller and host alike. We work with local communities, businesses and individuals to develop sustainable tourism opportunities that help local economies while minimizing negative environmental and cultural impacts.

Part of G.A.P’s operating philosophy is to respect the communities in which we operate. We do this by acting in a manner that is environmentally, socially and economically responsible. While our sustainable tourism policies are constantly evolving, our commitment to socially conscious, grassroots style travel has never changed. In recognition of our efforts in the area of social responsibility, G.A.P won the Ethics in Action Award. We are proud of our reputation, the work we do with local communities and the style of travel we offer to our passengers.

Planeterra is a labour of love and a dream that has come together after years
of planning. As a company that strives to give back to local communities, developing our own foundation has long been on the agenda and is now a reality. We have been very successful as a company and part of our mission statement is to never forget what really makes our company and programs great. It’s about community, people and cultural exchange.

It is our duty to show ultimate respect for the privilege we all have with modern international travel. In appreciation of the people and places that have provided us with unforgettable memories and experiences, we encourage you to help us give back to the country in which you have travelled. We ensure that 100% of your donation goes back to the people and supports community development with the goal of promoting long-term sustainability.- Bruce Poon Tip, CEO

8. You just recently travelled to Peru and had a chance to visit the Inti Runakunaq Wasin project. What did you see and learn? What impact did it have on you?

Peru was amazing. It had a huge impact on me and really impassioned me to help raise the money for the new land and home. I have such mixed feelings, it was beautifully stunning with Macchu Picchu and the Inca architecture and then the extreme sadness of the children living on the streets. The country itself is poor, with an iliteracy rate of over 35%. The City of Cusco was and the restaurants / tourism areas etc. were really quite nice. We visited with the street kids project and Luiz Marina, the director of IRW.

IRW is definitely a needed refuge. The drop in center is for the kids to get help with their homework / encouragement / food etc. that they desperately need, so they aren’t on the street selling. They go to school 1/2 days only. A lot of the kids come from dysfuncitonal familes with domestic abuse. We went to see where some of the kids live and it was heartbreaking. 4 siblings, (see some of the photos) were living together with no parents in a 10×10 mud room, no windows, no indoor bathroom, no beds, and had to get their own food, wash their own clothes and fend for themselves. It was shocking.

Most of the kids were outwardly filthy but they had gentle little spirits. Can you imagine your kids living on their own that young, foraging for food with the dogs, firewood etc. Its crazy! IRW is doing such good things supporting these children.

9. If I can’t make it to the fundraiser, how else can I support this project?
We welcome donations, third party events and support through our other events. For upcoming events check out our website at www.planeterra.org/events.

Thanks, Elinor, for telling us about this unique initiative and I look forward to attending the Ignite the Nite fundraising event this Thursday.

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