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The Donor: Alan Harman

The Gift: Creating the Alma Children's Education Foundation

The Reason: To support education programs in Peru

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A few years ago, Alan Harman and his wife, Carine Blin, took their three young children on a four-month trip through Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Peru. The trip became more than a family adventure and left a lasting impression on all of them.

"We ran into an awful lot of poor people in the course of four months," Mr. Harman recalled. "We just had one of those moments where you wanted to do something about it."

After returning home to Toronto, Mr. Harman began researching various programs focused in Peru. Last year, he raised $10,000 for a series of education workshops in Urubamba, a town in southern Peru near the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. The area is among the poorest in the country and nearly half the children are illiterate.

"I thought that would be the end of it," said Mr. Harman, 49, a senior investment executive at ScotiaMcLeod. "But I ran into so many people down there that had so many wonderful ideas on how to improve the lot of children around education that I just got excited about all these others ideas."

Mr. Harman soon created the Alma Children's Education Foundation ( alma is Spanish for soul), a registered charity, and he is now working on funding seven projects in Peru. They include building a new studio for a novel arts program run by a former Peruvian ballerina, creating a computer training centre for teenagers, funding construction of a new building at a primary school and developing an arts education program at a high school.

Mr. Harman hopes to raise $50,000 this year for the projects and he has raised about half that so far with help from friends and work colleagues. Once those projects get going, he hopes to expand the effort.

"I want to build it out. I want to go to Bolivia at the end of this year and hopefully create more projects in Peru and Bolivia as well," he said.

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His three children are "pretty keen" about the foundation too, he added. "I'm hoping that as this grows and develops ... one day they'll be more involved in it."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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