It takes someone extraordinary to be a true philanthropist, someone who is deeply troubled by the suffering in the world and who dedicates a significant part of his life to easing it, someone with a vision of hope, a vision that will change millions of lives for the better.
Peter Clarke is just such a man.
There was no particular event, no specific moment that led to Clarke's vision. But rather, it was like a lifetime of puzzle pieces gradually falling into place, ultimately leading to the conception of The Philanthropy Channel.
Clarke finds it astonishing that when we have television channels dedicated to almost anything you would want to watch, there wasn't one that was entirely about positivity, inspiration, hope and healing.
But there is now.
With the CRTC license granted on 15th November, 2011, the gentle visionary turned his attention to raising awareness and to obtaining funding for the channel.
Although the humble Clarke says, "I'm just a guy with an idea," he is much more than that. He is an interesting combination of playful boy and driven man, with a need to heal as much of the world as he can manage during his allotted time on this Earth.
That need comes from a purity of heart and intention that you can see in his smile and you can feel in his presence.
Clarke's felt an innate urge to be a humanitarian decades before taking on the rather daunting challenge of creating this groundbreaking television channel that still requires funding to make it a reality.
"When I was about 16...[I knew] I needed to use my voice for influence," says Clarke, his cool, casual dress and manner belying the vehemence with which he speaks. "I understood I'm supposed to...do purposeful, meaningful work."
He went on to become a financial advisor, helping and influencing people in a more traditional way. But there came a time when he felt "zero joy" in talking to people about saving for retirement. "There was no heart or energy in it for me," he admits, almost apologetically. "[I said to myself], I'm supposed to be doing something more than this, but how do I use my gift to help people?"
Further complicating matters, he had no idea just what that gift was.
Somewhere along the way, Clarke became painfully aware of the fact that he "won the birth lottery," a phrase he uses with great disdain.
"I could list so many privileges I've been given. Born in Canada! Freedom. Water. Education. Food. Opportunity. Anything I wanted to do. And there's something in me that goes...why is this happening to me? Why did I get that?"
Haunted by "being so lucky", one unanswerable question causes him daily torment. Why should others be born into poverty, starvation, disease and death while he is so blessed?
Clarke discloses that for him, "It always comes back to injustice," his piercing blue eyes revealing a piece of his soul.
It is that injustice that leaves Clarke with something resembling guilt gnawing at the pit of his stomach and keeping him up at night.
As he speaks of the need for a sense of purpose, every word is uttered with a growing fervor. "Does anyone even know you're here? Did you just show up, have a few beers, a few laughs and you went to bed? Is that what you did? Is that what you want your legacy to be? No. Not for me."
Clarke claims his deep desire to get The Philanthropy Channel up and running is because he wants to sleep at night.
"Helping a kid in Rwanda is fantastic. How about us getting a network up that tells the story and then 2,000 more people donate or get involved and then we get even more wells built?" he suggests. "How about that? I need your help!"
With his passion and commitment evident in the rising pitch of his voice, he leans across the table toward me, declaring, "I want to be able to say [to myself], 'You used your talents to help somebody somewhere and you changed one life somewhere...I didn't just show up, take, take, take, with all this privilege and not share it'."
The word "philanthropy" means "loving humanity." In my opinion, if your intention is anything less than that whether you're writing cheques or serving food to the homeless, if it's about your tax benefit or boosting your image you're missing the point.
There is no selfishness or ego in the actions of this kind and impassioned soul, seated across from me at Starbucks. He has the heart of a true philanthropist, for everything that drives this beautiful man is about "loving humanity."
How about you? Are you a true philanthropist, too? What are you doing to ease the suffering of others?
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