Off to Dominican Republic with Compassion Canada Tomorrow

My violins and bags are packed … I am off to the Dominican Republic with Compassion Canada tomorrow in partnership with Flyingbow – Jan. 31 to Feb. 7/14. This year marks my 9th Anniversary with Compassion as an artist.  I am looking forward to this Mission/Exposure Trip with real anticipation. My last trip to see the work of Compassion up close was in 2008 when I visited Quito, Ecuador.  You can read about that incredible trip here. I am sure this trip will be just as life-altering!

The Dominican Republic boarders Haiti and is known as one of the most popular tourist destinations

Compassion’s work in Dominican Republic began in 1970. Currently, more than 48,500 children participate in 167 child development centers. Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Dominican children with a long-term program of physical, educational, social and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need (from birth to young adult) have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and be all God created them to be. Although the DR is known as one of the most popular tourist destinations, poverty is still a stark (hidden) reality.  I along with a group of fellow artist “ambassadors” will spend most of our time in the poorest regions of the county, meeting the people and getting a first hand look at all the great work these churches are doing in partnership with Compassion.  I’ll be blogging more updates over the next week, but in the mean time, here are a few pictures of the people and places we will visit.

Soccer in Ecuador!

Soccer is huge in Ecuador! It is played everywhere: on street corners, parks, plazas – in bare feet, with dirty rags bunched up into a ball wound with string … it is the nations sport.

A few days before leaving on the Compassion Exposure Tour last month for Ecuador, I visited a local soccer store in downtown Guelph, The Soccer Fanatic, to see if they would be able to donate some Soccer equipment to the children at the various Compassion projects we visited. Paul Smit, the owner of the store and his employees were very helpful and generous in donating bags and bags of soccer jersey’s, shorts, shoes, balls – even some referee flags, score sheets and red/yellow cards! This was a “God thing” as I call it. Much of this equipment had been given to the store by store patrons (coaches, parents and their kids) in a recycling program they run to help families in need. I am sure they would have never thought their equipment was going to end up in some of the poorest regions of South America where the average weekly wage is $5 per adult. Paul gave me everything he had in the store on that day along with a new pump to pump up the soccer balls at each project. How thrilling it was to hand out the equipment to the kids and the organizers and see their excitement and hear their words of appreciation. How much more thrilling to see them play their game! Here are a few pictures and video that capture some of these moments …


A Compassion project court yard in Puertolago, Ecuador, where children were spontaneously playing soccer.


A boy dribbling a donated soccer ball …


The smile says it all … pure joy!

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The Compassion Project Director in Puertolago thanks Paul Smit and the patrons of The Soccer Fanatic in Guelph who donated all the soccer equipment.


A group of children are very excited to pump up a soccer ball with the new pump!


Students and staff with some of the donated equipment.


With three students from a Compassion project who were excited to model some donated soccer jersey’s and balls. Go Guelph Royals! I am wearing a Quito Soccer Jersey – the team that won the Ecuador National Soccer Championship this year. When I arrived in Puertolago, a large group of locals cheered as I got off our tour bus. I responded by shouting out “Vivo Quito”!


Members of the Compassion Exposure Tour team have the opportunity to play a game of soccer with some children in Puertolago.

We have so much we take for granted in Canada – the blessing of sport is just one. My next trip to South America, along with my violin, will include more soccer gear! Until next time …

Spontaneous Music Moments in Ecuador

There were many spontaneous music moments in Ecuador that were enjoyed by all. I am glad I took my acoustic and electric violins. I am constantly amazed at how music crosses all language and cultural barriers … here is a video and some photos that captured some of the moments:


On our first day, I joined the members of east coast band, Life Support, on electric violin as we led worship at a Compassion project church in the South end of Quito – our first time performing together. It was a special moment.


With Rob and Chris from Life Support … this picture truly catches the joy of spontaneously jamming …


I would love to know what this beautiful little girl was thinking …


A cell phone taping moment – in South America? … cell phones can be purchased for less than $30 on pretty much any street corner …



Out of nowhere, a Compassion worker (tutor) produced a violin he must have purchased at a local market(an orange price tag was still stuck on the instrument!). By the looks of the instrument (a Blue Grass set-up), it had somehow made it’s way to South America from Texas … so we played together … no language barrier here …


After he asked me to tune his instrument, he found it hard to play (he had tuned his instrument in an alternate tuning not common for the violin) … so I proceeded to show him how to play a D major scale … Notice the Indian ornament hanging off the end of the scroll? It reminded me of the North American Aboriginal art we see in Canada.

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Some video footage that captured the energy and fun at another Compassion project in Puertolago. Here I am jamming on a fiddle tune with Jordan (guitar), Matt (percussion) and Rob (guitar) from Life Support. Later, while we played a mic was lowered from the floor above and our music was broad-casted to the whole village. Behind the camera, other group members were playing soccer with the children, playing games and painting nails … it was an amazing, festive atmosphere of love and pure joy on the equator!

Quito Bound Tomorrow!

I leave tomorrow morning on an Exposure Tour with Compassion Canada to Quito, Ecuador – the oldest and founding city in South America and capital of Ecuador. I will be joining a team of pastors, Radio and TV personalities, music artists and Compassion staff to visit a number of Compassion Projects (child development centers) in the Quito region of Ecuador. Pastor Dave Ralph and his wife Sue will be joining the team from my home church of Lakeside. I look forward to sharing this time with them. I love South America, the people, the culture, the music and of course the food. It was in Ecuador, December of 2004 with the 5th String BLVD. band, where I was exposed to extreme poverty for the first time. God moved me (from a heart level) in a profound way to do something more than what I was already doing as a music artist while we played on a stage in the Quito city dump where 300 families made their homes out of the garbage. As a result, I began partnering with Compassion Canada to help children and families in extreme poverty situations. It has been an amazing 4-year journey as I have seen many partner with me and Compassion in doing their part to sponsor children. I will try to blog daily while I am away. I appreciate your prayers for safety and a productive time for God’s kingdom.


Quito, Ecuador – at aprox. 9,350 feet – is the second highest capital city in the world