Monday, April 13, 2009

Changing his own life to improve the lives of others

Daniel Germain began using and dealing drugs as a child. A trip to jail and then later a trip to Mexico turned his life around. Seeing the poverty amongst children in Mexico convicted him to do something about it. So in addition to all the aid work he has done in recent years, Germain has started Millennium Summits to bring experts into Montreal to discuss how to fight poverty.

From the Montreal Gazette, reporter Rene Bruemmer introduces us to Germain and his work.

Germain joined a Canadian International Development Agency trip to Mexico, saw 50,000 children living in garbage dumps, and resolved to spend his life helping kids.

He made 60 trips to Mexico and Haiti over the next five years, organizing aid groups of up to 100 people.

Congratulations, an influential activist told him, but what about the less visible poverty in his back yard?

He started the Breakfast Club of Quebec at one Longueuil elementary school in 1994. Today, the program serves breakfast to 15,000 kids a day at 230 schools. The United Nations recognized it as one of the top three school-feeding programs in the world, and it has spread across Canada.

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, Germain is hosting the third annual Montreal Millennium Summit that he founded, gathering experts, celebrities, United Nations officials and ordinary citizens to the Palais des congrès to discuss ways to tackle the world's humanitarian ills.

It's based on the UN's Millennium Development Goals, put forth in 2000, which include halving world poverty and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.

Why did you start the Montreal Millennium Summit?

Germain: We wanted to create a platform of like minds - foundations, experts, celebrities, NGOs - to come together once a year and harness best practices. And we also want the general public (3,000 tickets have been sold) because I believe ordinary people have extraordinary dreams and strategies, but they don't have the ability to share it.

What do you hope to achieve?

I'm betting on the next great idea that will find a way to provoke the engagement of the world population.

Look at Al Gore with his documentary (on global warming) An Inconvenient Truth. People have talked about this for 60 years, but he achieved more in six months. Now everybody is talking green. It's about coming up with the right thing at the right time in the right way.

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