Can You Make A Difference In This World? Absolutely

with Martha Chapman

A proud Donnalea Madeley

A packed Design Centre was the venue

Greg Madeley with some of the 325 guests

Coralie Belman of Coralium Consulting; Audrius Valiulis of UASEP & Young SKAL; John Lupien, tourism instructor at Sheridan College

The food was superb and the wine was delicious, but Saturday’s event at Toronto’s tony Design Exchange venue was about more than taste buds.  It was about raising over $50,000 for a charity founded by a Canadian travel agent and her husband.

Hands Across the Nations was established by Donnalea and Greg Madelely in 1993, after Greg travelled as a youth team leader on volunteer projects to Bolivia and Mali. Today they concentrate their efforts in a village in each of those countries, focusing on water, health and education – working with the community leaders and making a long-term commitment to the villagers.

Donnalea’s charitable activities resulted in a very special accolade: she was named godmother of RCI’s Liberty of the Seas and continues to work with the cruise line to build awareness of HATN and its works.

Saturday’s gourmet-themed event was attended by 325 people, and sold out long before the evening. As well as cocktails and canapés, there were food stations showcasing the work of some of the city’s finest chefs, live music and dancing and a silent auction featuring crafts made in Bolivia and Mali. This was the 14th annual event, and Donnalea told me, “I used to know everyone in the room. Now there are investment bankers, executives with large corporations and I know only a handful. Isn’t that a wonderful problem to have?”

One of the key aspects of HATN is that it is all run by volunteers, keeping overheads to a minimum. These include Greg’s nephew Justin Davis, who told me that they’re very proud that 97¢ on the dollar goes to projects. “There’s a lot of love and trust with HATN.” Donnalea is especially proud of the programs which encourage education for children who otherwise wouldn’t go to school, the new maternity centre in Mali (which has a 20% infant mortality rate) and the 22 greenhouses in Santa Ana in Bolivia.

How do you do it all? I asked. Donnalea laughed. “We sleep less. We use technology. And we have amazing volunteers.”

And, 48 hours after the lights were turned off in the Design Exchange, they started planning next year’s benefit. Get your tickets now, folks. You’ll be supporting a wonderful cause.

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