Thoughts from our Founder - Rachelle Kearns

Buy Art Not Kids - There's Fruit!

Discussions about planting a garden started a couple of years ago. The kids debated what kinds of fruits and veggies they wanted. Kindergarten bean plant projects, apple picking trips, and even pulling weeds from our lawn led to countless conversations about what our garden would look like one day. Then finally the trip to the garden centre. Seedlings were planted, we prayed for sun and we watered daily. As the days passed, our plants began to grow. But despite our best intentions, it soon became completely clear that we had no idea what we were doing. Within a few weeks, our teeny tiny plants morphed into one giant mass of stems and leaves that looked like this:


It was way overgrown and completely outta control. But to our delight, there was fruit! No cucumber or green pepper had ever tasted better!

As I pondered our adventures in gardening, it felt parallel to the adventures of founding the ‘Buy Art Not Kids’ art auction. This summer, our family moved to Austin, Texas. The decision to move sparked many a conversation about how to move well and how to let go. My husband Stephen and I realized that we would no longer be able to lead the BANK committee and although it was confusing to us, we knew we needed to let it go. But an incredible thing happened. Two weeks after saying ‘goodbye’ to the committee, I received a phone call that changed everything. And now, I’m delighted to report that the BANK committee has two new leaders at the helm ready and willing to fight the injustice of child sex trafficking through raising funds and awareness. BANK very much felt like our garden; this exciting, highly anticipated thing, lovingly plotted and planned, growing rapidly and bearing fruit.

As Founder & Ambassador of ‘Buy Art Not Kids’ I’m excited to continue working with the committee from afar. On behalf of the committee, we’re thrilled to announce that the 2016 ‘Buy Art Not Kids’ Art Auction will be taking place on November 1st at The Burroughes in Toronto. I will be there, and I hope to see you there too!

Our committee is already hard at work, planning and preparing another extraordinary event. Let me introduce our new co-leaders and committee. Gabrielle Peacock and Tess McLean are women I knew peripherally through Waddington’s, the auction house that the gifted auctioneer for our last BANK gala, Stephen Ranger, works. Gaby has extensive experience in the art world, including most recently as CEO of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa. Tess has worked in communications and marketing, and currently works at Waddington’s. Gaby and Tess spent a month in Cambodia a few months ago, each assigned volunteer responsibilities with Cambodian NGOs based on their skills and background. While in Phnom Penh, they had an enlightening meeting with my friend Lisa Cheong, who works for Ratanakl Int'l; BANK's beneficiary charity. Over dinner, Gaby and Tess's hearts for Cambodia were enlarged. Little did I know that a couple of months later, their enlarged hearts would be used to continue the work of BANK; building awareness and raising funds to fight sex trafficking. With their enthusiastic leadership, the committee is back in action, and I'm eager to do whatever I can to continue to support and cheerlead from afar. You’ll learn more about our new co-chairs in the near future when they post their first blog.

Rachelle Kearns

Founder & Ambassador, 'Buy Art Not Kids'

BANK Founders Rachelle & Stephen Kearns Travel to Cambodia

February, 8, 2015. Arrived, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The first thing to hit our senses was the sweet smell of incense. It permeated the warm air, and had a mellowing effect on our very tired bodies. Cambodia is rich in beauty - lotus flowers, colorful lights at night, delicious Khmer food - even the sunsets were beautifully different than the ones we are familiar with here.

We were quickly immersed in visits to historical sites combined with stops at a wide variety of development projects with Ratanak International involvement. We experienced two contrasting sides of Cambodia; the darkness and the beauty, the tragedy and the hope, the trauma and the healing. One of these contrasts was the tension between chaos and renewal.

  Cambodia lights at night in the city of Phnom Penh

Cambodia lights at night in the city of Phnom Penh


Coming from a country where standards and systems are the foundation and fabric of everyday living, Cambodia is very different. There are no systems or controls. In this void, corruption thrives. We witnessed the most intense expression of this chaos during our visit to Toul Slang Museum, the preserved interrogation prison used by the Khmer Rouge to torture and kill thousands between 1975 - 79. Brian McConaghy, Founder of Ratanak Int'l, was our host. He first came here 25 years ago in 1990 with the C&MA and his anecdotes and information added so much colour to the trip. As we entered he prepared us: "don't try to make sense of this…" It was unimaginable - a brutal reign of violence and evil, carefully cataloged in photos, records and even art commissioned by the Khmer Rouge.

At another point in our trip, we visited an organization called the Chab Dai Coalition - Chab Dai literally means, 'joining hands'. The head of Chab Dai was a dynamic ex-pat named Helen Sworn. Upon arriving in Cambodia 16 years ago, she observed many NGO's doing great work, but with no coordination. She pointed out: to fight a highly sophisticated network of evil, it must be met with an equally or more sophisticated network for good. Chab Dai was founded to unite NGOs fighting human trafficking and collaborate on best practices, and strategy.

9 years ago, their trafficking prevention program was launched. The program is run by national Khmer leaders. One of the simple yet successful parts of the program is a business card they distribute with a "Kids Help Phone" number to call in the event of being trafficked. They receive hundreds of calls annually from all over Asia, and even as far as South Africa. Last year's Buy Art Not Kids Art Auction 2014 fully funded this amazing program. Our hearts were brimming with excitement hearing about this program, actively combatting the chaos and renewing Cambodia.

 BANK Founder, Rachelle Kearns, sharing a laugh with Helen Sworn, Director of Chab Dai Coalition

BANK Founder, Rachelle Kearns, sharing a laugh with Helen Sworn, Director of Chab Dai Coalition

BANK Winter Update 2015

In Japan, there is a distinct reverence and respect for the broken.  Japanese tea masters honed what's known as the art ofkintsugi, which literally means, 'to patch with gold'. In this process, pieces of a broken bowl are mended with radiant gold. The result is a bowl that resembles nothing of its former self, but is completely transformed into something more beautiful and has acquired a 'better than new' aesthetic.

 This is our bold and audacious belief, that the broken victims of human trafficking have intrinsic beauty and their lives can be restored. Buy Art Not Kids Art Auction (BANK) exists to bring funding and awareness to charities that are fighting the injustice of human trafficking.

 The organizing committee is excited to share a couple of key updates with you today:

  1. The first major update is that we are planning to host the next BANK Art Auction fundraiser in spring 2016. We look forward to announcing a specific date for the art auction by this April. Watch our website ( and social media pages for this announcement.
  2. The second update is that Rachelle and Stephen Kearns, cofounders of BANK, have been invited by Ratanak Int'l, BANK's beneficiary charity, to go to Cambodia and see the incredible work that all of us have been supporting together. Join us as we share our travelling adventures and key updates with you by following the BANK Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Thank you for all of your ongoing support in the work to end human trafficking.

Rachelle & Stephen Kearns, on behalf of the BANK Organizing Committee