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The Donors: Greg and Donnalea Madeley

The Gift: Creating Hands Across the Nations

The Cause: Starting health and education programs in Bolivia and Mali

When Greg Madeley went on a trip to Bolivia in 1988 to help build a summer camp, he became frustrated.

“I kept thinking, there’s got to more than just helping with a summer camp, there is so much need here,” recalled Mr. Madeley, a medical technician at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

“I remember him coming and saying, ‘If I can’t do it then I can certainly put people in place who can do it,’” added Ms. Madeley, a travel agent.

The couple began organizing a return trip to Bolivia with 37 young volunteers to work at an orphanage. But political instability forced the group, which included the Madeleys’ young children, to head to Belize to work on a reforestation project.

“We got a real eye-opener to what living in these countries can be like because we lived two miles deep into the rain forest,” Mr. Madeley said. “It was rough,” added Ms. Madeley. “If it moved, it bit. We had experiences of flooding, snakes, you name it.”

The couple was not dissuaded. Instead they heard about a community in Mali that needed a new dormitory for a school. Mr. Madeley headed there with a group and once again felt a need to do more. “I saw so many needs of medicine, food and I just could not imagine myself just sitting back and doing nothing,” he said.

They eventually created a charity called Hands Across the Nations and started working on projects in both countries, including medical and dental clinics, water filters, greenhouses, schools, sports facilities and even a laundry operation in a prison for women. Up to 20 volunteers, who raise their own travel funds, make two or three trips a year to both countries.

The Madeleys fit the charitable work around their full-time jobs and they get help from their three adult children, who all grew up travelling to Bolivia and Mali. And they aren’t slowing down.

“There’s so much need in the world,” said Mr. Madeley. “We’ve been given so much in North America and we need to give back. There is such an imbalance of unfairness in this world.”



pwaldie@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PwaldieGLOBE

 

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