The donors: Robert, Francine, Rebecca and Kim Barrett
The gift: $25-million
The cause: World Vision Canada
The reason: To support youth programs in Latin America
When Robert Barrett was growing up near Boston he learned a lot about business and philanthropy from his father Wilmer.
“Entitlement was not part of our beginnings,” Mr. Barrett recalled. When the time came for his father to divide up his estate everything went to a local church, a university and a hospital. “That kind of set the stage for us.”
Mr. Barrett, 78, came to Canada in 1967 to run an offshoot of the family’s packaging business. He thought it would be a temporary posting but he never left and eventually became a Canadian citizen and settled in Toronto. The company grew into Polytainers Inc. which the family still owns.
Over the years Mr. Barrett and his wife Francine gave to various charities, but in 2013 they decided to focus their donations and they set up a family foundation with their daughters, Rebecca and Kim. The family’s goal was to become more engaged with charities and fund projects that wouldn’t happen without their financial support. That led them to World Vision Canada, which was developing a program in Honduras and El Salvador that provides training, mentoring and internships for young people at risk. The Barretts took a trip to Honduras to see the program in action and were so impressed that they committed $25-million from the foundation over 10 years. The money will help expand the initiative into more countries.
Mr. Barrett said the trip was harrowing at times as World Vision operates in some of the country’s most violent neighbourhoods. Despite the danger, he was blown away by the “level of excitement they have and the achievements they are making.”