Gabrielle Peacock and Tess McLean
In May 2015, Gaby and Tess traveled to Cambodia. Their first time traveling together – first time in Cambodia – and first time volunteering abroad. From the moment their feet hit the sizzling tarmac at Phnom Penh’s airport; they breathed in the humid 40-degree air; and bumped along in their first tuk-tuk drive through the craziest traffic they had ever witnessed; they knew the next month would be like no other they had ever experienced.
Following an extensive background in the arts and cultural nonprofit sector in Canada, Gaby had just left her position as Chief Executive Officer of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, the largest public art gallery between Toronto and Montreal. Taking a step back to savour some time off, Gaby decided it was the opportune moment to realize a long-time desire to volunteer in South East Asia. Tess’ background had been in the corporate consulting and communications world, with a recent move to work with her husband in the family art auction business (Tess’ and Gaby’s partners work together at Waddington’s Auctioneers & Appraisers). When she heard of Gaby’s plan, she wanted to be a part of it. While both women had been heavily involved in fundraising and advocacy for a wide variety of charitable causes, this would be their first venture outside of Canada in a volunteer capacity.
Cambodia blew them away. The hardships, extreme poverty, and the devastating impact left by the Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s are ever-present facts of life for Cambodians. It was one of those “we have to do something” moments for the women. And as life sometimes works out, an opportunity to become involved with an organization created by a Canadian artist that supports one of Cambodia’s most vulnerable communities came to their attention. Founded by the extraordinary Rachelle Kearns, the Buy Art Not Kids (BANK) benefit art auction was created to support ending the injustice of human trafficking in Cambodia. Following their return to Toronto, Gaby and Tess heard that Rachelle was moving to Austin Texas and that BANK was to be cancelled. It was in the stars that they would become involved.
Fast forward a year. Gaby and Tess are now working with the wonderful volunteers of the BANK committee, with Rachelle providing guidance from Austin, to conduct this year's auction on November 1, 2016