Bob Barrett has witnessed first-hand the tough and dangerous environment in regions like San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and knows the Barrett Family Foundation’s (BFF) gift of $25-million to World Vision Canada (WVC) can help change the future prospects for youth living in several poverty-stricken Central American cities.
The inspirational gift, WVC’s largest private donation and one of the largest-ever private philanthropic gifts to an international NGO in Canada, supports the charity’s existing youth initiatives in El Salvador and Honduras and the expansion of the program into neighbouring Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.
The BFF first supported the Vision for Vulnerable Youth Initiative in 2016 with an initial gift of $5-million. The project has positively impacted the lives of nearly 3,000 youth in Honduras and El Salvador, and funding for phase two will support the goal to reach an additional 9,000 vulnerable adolescents and youth in seven neighbouring countries.
A leader in pursuing education and enhancing opportunities for young people, BFF researched organizations that were aligned with its own goals before choosing to support the work of WVC.
Inspired by his father’s generosity, Mr. Barrett, president and CEO of Polytainers Inc., a leading plastic packaging manufacturer, has been committed to philanthropy throughout his working years, but describes his previous approach as ‘shot-gun.’
Mr. Barrett, his wife Francine Rouleau Barrett, and their daughters Kim Barrett McKenna and Rebecca Barrett established the family foundation in 2013.
BFF’s objective is to work with qualified organizations that impact education, environmental sustainability and humanitarian well-being.
“It is important to us to support initiatives and projects that could not be pursued without the foundation’s input,” says Mr. Barrett.
This more focused approach has also resulted in other major undertakings such as BFF’s investment at Humber College that attracted matching funds and led to the establishment of the Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation.
Mr. Barrett, along with his daughter Kim Barrett McKenna, board member Mark Cullen and Michael Messenger, president of WVC, visited Honduras for a week in 2018 and met with students who were enrolled in the Jovenes Super Pilas or Youth Ready program, an initiative to transform the lives of thousands of young people in Honduras and El Salvador and empower them with skills to build a better future for themselves.
Ms. Rouleau Barrett believes there should be a more compassionate approach to people trying to flee danger in their own countries.
“What they need is help. We think it is important to support them with education and training so that they can see a future in their country,” she says.
Visiting Honduras solidified their support for WVC’s endeavours in the region.
“Seeing it for ourselves made us feel good about the work that is being done and led to us to making the longer-term commitment so World Vision can sink its teeth into the project,” says Mr. Barrett, who says the NGO’s diligent reporting and documentation on its projects reassures donors their investments are being well spent and having an impact.
The Vision for Vulnerable Youth program has two phases. In the first phase, participants are trained on the Youth Ready modules that have been culturally contextualized by the field staff and a consultant from each country.
The youth engage in activities such as learning crucial life skills and preparing to re-enter the formal school system.
In phase two, participants build on their learnings and sharpen the focus of their long-term aspirations. They decide whether they want to learn technical and vocational skills, return to school, begin a formal degree or intern with businesses. Throughout this phase, all the youth receive mentoring to ensure they have the best chance of succeeding in their personal and professional goals.
“I’m grateful that my lifetime of working hard can make it possible to enable others to achieve some of their dreams,” says Mr. Barrett.
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