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Aiding Guatemalan children eases his mind Add to ...

THE GIFT: $600,000 and climbing

THE CAUSE: Casa Guatemala

THE REASON: To support programs for children in Guatemala

Lennox McNeely spent 23 years managing international investments at Sceptre Investment Counsel and developed more than just a knack for making money. He also developed a guilty conscience.

Mr. McNeely, who retired in 2000, said he participated in dozens of privatizations in developing countries, which were great for investors but not so good for thousands of local workers, who often lost their jobs.

"So there's a bit of a guilt trip," he said from his home in Whistler, B.C.

Several years ago, he read an article about a Vancouver-area school principal who had been working with an orphanage in Guatemala called Casa Guatemala. Mr. McNeely was familiar with the country, having travelled there in the 1970s.

"So I just called him up and said I could probably help," he recalled.

At first, Mr. McNeely made a few donations, but his involvement increased after a 1999 earthquake devastated the country. He sent a work crew from Canada to help rebuild the orphanage and soon became a major donor. He has contributed more than $600,000 in total and recently pledged another $40,000 (U.S.).

He has also helped Canadian students visit the orphanage and he has been there three times dressed as Santa Clause to distribute gifts.

Casa Guatemala is located in the Rio Dulce region near the border with Belize. It cares for more than 250 children and receives no government financing. Mr. McNeely said the orphanage is struggling with rising costs as well as a drop in donations because of the recession. The problems have recently forced it to close a shelter for infants.

Mr. McNeely, 63, is leading a new fundraising effort and hopes to find donors to match his $40,000 pledge.

"It is at a crisis spot," he said. "But I think we can do it."

He added that he helped save the orphanage after the 1999 earthquake and hopes to save it again.


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