A Window into Latin America

By Ombi and Alex - November 03, 2009

Well, it has certainly been a while since I have blogged. Busy, busy, busy! Well, that's my excuse. 2009 has been an incredibly full on year for me, with lots of changes and adjustments. But, would I want it any other way? More on this in the next blog.

This blog will focus on the fundraiser that Alex and I are currently involved in helping out with. Like everything else in my life, this too has a story. Way back almost two years ago, when Alex and I returned from our 16 month trip around the world trip, we told our dear fried, Phil West, that we would help him out with some fundraising for the foundation he started and directs: "Renew the Spirit Foundation - Healing the Hearts of Child Survivors of War and Terrorism". Well, one thing led to another, and nothing ever happened...Alex and I were both looking for work...then it was Christmas... then we went to Ecuador and the USA for five weeks, and then we started to think, "Hey, it's almost Christmas 2009". Time...time...there is never enough time! Not good enough! I looked over the events of the last year, all of the natural disasters which had occurred, and especially Samoa, where I had spent last Christmas, and knew of people who had tragically died. I was really feeling that now was the time to give! I feel that in order to go forward in life, I sometimes need to 'balance things out' and do a bit of giving too. No more excuses! So, we had a good chat to Phil, and with a solid resolve, we decided that we were going to do this before the year was out, come hell or high water.

The idea was always to do some kind of slide show using some of the many photos (mostly Alex's) that we have taken on our travels. Latin America would probably be our focus, as it is also our passion. So, we started to organise...our dear friend Christina, director of the Cuban Dance Academy, would allow us to use her studio in Abbotsford, another friend of "Renew the Spirit", Phillipa, would organise some chairs, Alex would work on the slide show, and I would help do all the other bits and pieces, so to speak. And...we had even set a date: Friday 27th November...yes, of this year!

A couple of weeks ago, as this was all coming together, we were having dinner at the house of our very dear and special friends (who are the only others I know who are as travel obsessed as us, and whom I thus refer to as our 'travel partners in crime') , Richard and Jo deMeester, who had only just come back themselves from a 10 month stint overseas, including Central America and Cuba. So, we decided to run our ideas by them. As we did so, I began thinking that it would be fantastic, should they want to help out, as not only are they extremely generous and giving people, but they both have a passion for photography and take brilliant photos. Take a look at their blog, www.thedemeesters.blogspot.com Some wine and some excellent Thai food later (recipes they'd picked up from a Thai cooking course they'd participated in, in Thailand only weeks prior), we not only got some more great ideas but Jo and Richard also decided that they would like to add some of their photos to the slide show. We were stoked!

I called Phil and told him what had transpired, and within days ideas became blurbs, blurbs became the basic outline for a flyer, and the flyer was played with (originally by Phil, and then by Alex) until we had the 'you beaut, ready to go version'.

So, on the 27th of November at the Cuban Dance Academy's, Yemaya Studio, at Level 1/ 269 Johnston St, Abbotsford, Renew the Spirit Foundation will present: 'A Window into Latin America. A photojournalistic exhibition of Latin America - its people, culture, landscape and nature'. The four of us are thrilled to be able to share our love and passion of Latin America to all who come to the exhibition, and in doing so help out a most noteworthy organisation.

We really hope that you can make it. Please feel free to pass this information on to anybody or groups of people whom you think may be interested.

Renew the Spirit believes 'that a basic principal of humanity is to work toward a goal of reduction of wars, political and religious hatreds, terrorism, extremism as well as state-sponsored repression and violence.'

About the very humble Phil West, and the origin of the organisation:

'The Foundation was an initiative of Dr Phil West, who, with the support of Walter Mikac, initiated and set up the Alannah and Madeline Foundation in 1997 in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre a year earlier in which Walter’s wife and two young girls were murdered. The establishment of both foundations had the same genesis.

Dr West's Honours and PhD studies concerned the civil wars in Central America in the 1980s. During his overseas-based research, he saw at first hand the devastating physical and psychological impact of war and armed violence on individuals and communities and was especially moved by the plight of children.

Dr West's Honours and PhD studies concerned the civil wars in Central America in the 1980s. During his overseas-based research, he saw at first hand the devastating physical and psychological impact of war and armed violence on individuals and communities and was especially moved by the plight of children.'

I, personally, feel honoured to be doing something which will help bring some joy and a sense of fulfillment to the lives of so many children, as I had such a privileged childhood myself. Food, shelter, a good education, protection, love and warmth were never lacking in my household. I say a privilege, because so many children on our Earth have been denied and continued to be denied many of these most basic of things. For me, this is just a tiny way in which I can help a fragment of the many others who are so much less fortunate than myself.

It's not all about me!

'See everything with the eye of the heart' - (written at the bottom of an email of a most dear friend, Anita De Blasio, whilst travelling through Ireland recently).

Dedication: To my father, Dino Zanetti, who has been the most brilliant of fathers. Whilst still alive, he probably still does not understand the depth of my love and appreciation for him. Reading to me from when I was too young to even remember, it is to him that I credit my love of words, writing and the English language. Furthermore, along with my mother, he provided me with the love, food, warmth, education, protection and shelter which are denied to so many children on Earth. I thank you profoundly, and with love.

(Photos:1.- A Window into Latin America; the flyer being used to advertise the event to be held on November 27, 2009. 2.- Kids in a village near Ninh Binh, Vietnam, 2007. 3 & 4.- Richard and Jo taking some cooking lessons in Bangkok, October 2009. 5.- Children in the Dominican Republic, December 2007. 6.- Ombi & Christina (Cuban Dance Academy), October 2009. 7.- Phil West and Catalina, fundraising for Renew the Spirit Foundation at Cubamemucho, September 2009. 8.- Alex on the Tiger Leaping Gorge walk, western China, late 2007. 9.- Ombi, Alex and Dad (Dino) at La Porchetta Restaurant, Carlton, April 2009.)

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