Charity abroad: Tofitian shares West Coast generosity in his travels

Gord Johns hasn’t forgotten to pack a charitable heart for his travels abroad. 

The executive director of the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce likes to bring a little joy to spread around.

He’s currently collecting a suitcase of small packable items for an upcoming trip to Cuba, little items like good shoes, softball mitts and soft houncing balls for the kids, guitar strings, even serviceable used prescription eyeglasses – stuff Canadians may take for granted, but which can be out of reach for the average Cuban.

“When you get outside the tourist areas, you see the true needs of Cuba,” he said, citing numbers showing while Cubans have things like a roof and healthcare, wages of $1 a day keep people from having much. 

The helping response from the community has been “overwhelming,” he said. 

“It’s amazing to see the power and spirit of people wanting to connect, share and help people they don’t even know a world away … There will be a little piece of Tofino in Havana by the time they’re done,” Johns said.

The appreciation in return is gratifying in a country that is culturally rich and where sharing is a way of life and a simple rubber ball may be played with by a whole neighbourhood. 

“It’s ingrained in them to share,” Johns said. 

For his Christmas in Guyana, he carried some West Coast comfort to Ucluetian ex-pat Anna Randall. 

Coun. Cathy Thicke of Tofino knew Randall was in Georgetown, Guyana, sorting out visa requirements for her mission work in Surinam, so she quickly put together a care package with the help of Kim Tomiyama Shaw of Chocolate Tofino.

Johns and his partner, Canadian Consul for Guyana Jennifer McSporran, invited Randall to lunch, and presented the West Coaster with goodies from home. 

And Randall got to spend some time in air conditioning – a bonus, but a gift in its own right. 

The visit and goodwill from home made her Christmas, she was heard to say.

Johns said it made his holiday, too.

“Anna’s so far away, on the other side of the world, and she’s doing this on a shoestring in remote Surinam, where she’s living in the jungle and doing some incredible work,” he said. “Seeing her and hearing her stories of what she was doing was really a gift for me … I got to be a conduit, which is a lot of my life practice and work – to just fill in the gaps. It was pretty cool to do that,” Johns said. “I got to be Santa, really.” 

Johns revisited Buxton Youth Developers, the grass-roots charity that is turning a shoestring budget of $6,000 Canadian a year into hope and education for 200 youth from one of the most desperately underprivileged parts of Guyana. 

He was able to bring news of support from the West Coast, where people like Ricardo Manmohan of Leadership Vancouver Island, and Melanie Leggett, have pulled together with businesses like Jamie’s and Crystal Cove to gather resources, including two months operating cost for the school. 

McSporran donated a photocopier to the school, and Johns was able to connect the dots with a delegation from the European Union, which could consider a grant application that would help the school expand to offer things like trades training. 

“They were overwhelmed, just to see people in another country cared about what they were doing,” Johns said. 

For other West Coasters who have plans to visit sunny, exotic locations that may have some Third World conditions in some spots not too far off the beaten track, Johns recommends travelling with an open heart and something tangible to share. 

“It’s rewarding to contribute and give a little back as part of the reward of being there,” he said. 

 

editor@westerlynews.ca

Just Posted

Tofino Hatchery wraps up successful season

“If you give those things half a chance, they will go to the ‘nth degree’ to get up those rivers.”

Tofino-Ucluelet Westerly News earns four national awards

The Westerly was announced as the recipient of four Canadian Community Newspaper Awards last week.

Culture provides authentic means to education for Ahousaht and Klemtu students

Tying lessons into a real-world scenario creates a more significant and community-based classroom

Tofino police believe alcohol was a factor in Thursday night car crash

The crash knocked out power to the community from 6:44-10:01 p.m

Ucluelet Secondary School Class of 2019 embark on a new chapter

School will host graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 15 at 2 p.m.

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Police probe report of shooting as Raptors rally continues

There were reports of a woman being injured at the event that celebrates the team’s NBA title win

Oil and gas sector cautious as deadline on Trans Mountain decision nears

Trudeau government expected to announce whether it will approve pipeline for second time on Tuesday

Skipping school costs a dozen B.C. students chance at a new car

Cowichan’s Jared Lammi showed up and won $5,000 cheque toward vehicle, but he can’t drive

BC Ferries adds extra and late night summer sailings

Seasonal adjustments to sailing times also in effect on many routes

Man suffers burns, dog dies in fire in Nanaimo

Structure burns down on Clifford Road property in Cedar

Province comes through with funding for Charleigh Fales

Lake Cowichan toddler only one in B.C. diagnosed with CLN2 Batten disease

People throwing food at a bear in Fernie alarms conservation groups

“Approaching and feeding bears contributes to habituation,” says conservation group

Feds announce $50M strategy to fight dementia

Emphasis is on prevention and and supporting caregivers

Most Read