This is a Guest Entry from Collette Vacations’ CEO (and Collette Foundation Founder) Dan Sullivan:
I’ve just returned from a 25-day trip to China, Hong Kong , Australia and Fiji. My wife Kathy joined me along with my niece Vanessa and sister-in-law Christine as well as Tom and Marilyn Sowinski. Marilyn painted Collette Foundation murals at our Vermont facility and here in the home offices.
One of the best things we did on the trip was visit TWO of our Collette Foundation sites. I am so proud of the Collette Foundation team. The work that the foundation does around the world and in RI and Southeastern New England represents the best parts of who we are.
In Alice Springs, our project is Drum Atweme, an organization that we came across many years ago. My group and I met with Peter Lowson and 2 of the Aboriginal girls who are part of the drum corps. This organization has 74 young women ages 6 to 18 who perform. Peter, his wife and others are their teachers — and they’ve come so far. This gives the young women the kind of self confidence that is not provided in their homes and or the community. The community has so much abuse both physically and mentally that these young women are in dire straits. By performing in the Drum corps the girls and women gain self confidence and a sense of trust in the group and its founders — a sense of family and security. The work of Peter and Drum Atweme is just unbelievable. You can see how much the girls love the music… and we fund and support this project, having the hope that Drum Atweme will help them be motivated and confident enough to use the experience as a jumping off point to lead healthy adult lives. Seeing how committed Peter Lowson is to Drum Atweme was inspirational for us all.
In Fiji we visited our foundation site in Koroipita run by a man named Peter Drysdale. This man works 15 hours a day , 7 days a week . His wife ran the Save the Children philanthropy in Fiji until recently. He gives everything to help young children and families who are in desperate need. His organization is called The Model Towns Charitable Trust. Peter and his team build cyclone-proof homes for impoverished homeless and landless families and squatters. Peter has built over 800 homes and placed families in them since 2009.
Peter shared with us that in 2010, they almost closed their doors due to lack of funding. He shared the many issues he encountered operating this project. He then showed us a piece of paper that hangs in his room which details the donations that the Collette Foundation gave when they needed it most. He said we helped to keep the project alive at that desperate time. We believed in the project and supported it at a time that he especially needed the support. The program flourished and Peter got the New Zealand rotary and New Zealand trade association to support his valiant cause and now the European Union to step up with strong resources and funding. The day we visited, there were almost 100 volunteers helping to build these houses and create communities. 46 homes were built last year and they will build over 100 this year.
I came home more enthused than ever. We all make a difference locally and internationally. Every one of us can do something that helps make a better life for that less fortunate child or person. This is part of the Collette culture and I thank all of you that are involved in any of our philanthropic efforts for all that you do .