Singer Danny Fernandes Getting Hands On With World Vision
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Guys like Danny Fernandes are the reason clichés about judging books by their covers still have traction in the 21st century. The heavily inked, highly connected 27-year-old pop singer/songwriter and dancer may exude cool, but underneath that hipster exterior beats the heart of a big fat softie.
“Honestly I am a very giving person. If I see a poor person on the street, I will go out of my way to give them change… or any money that’s in my pocket to be honest,” Fernandes tells Samaritanmag.
On the horn from hometown Toronto promoting his excellent, dark new single, “Fly Again (Broken Wings)” — which borrows from the 1980s-era band Mr. Mister and prefaces his third album coming this summer — Fernandes is startlingly candid about his music and his disposition towards charity.
“I just hate seeing people like that [on the street], especially when they have dogs. I have a weak heart for stuff like that, so when World Vision Canada asked me to get involved with them, I was more than happy to do that.”
According to Fernandes, the non-profit organization, which partners with communities and churches to relieve poverty at home and around the world, approached him about two years ago at the Stylus Awards, which fêtes Canadian DJ and urban culture.
“Ever since then I have been working very closely with them,” Fernandes confirms, “and I ended up sponsoring a child.”
"During concerts and events, our artists [who have signed on with World Vision’s Artist Associates program] engage fans on the importance of child sponsorship," says Darryl Konynenbelt, World Vision’s PR manager, public engagement & new ventures. “The artists also encourage concert goers to visit sponsorship tables we have set up at concert venues where they can see picture folders of children from around the world who are waiting for support.”
In return, World Vision offers a unique alternative to traditional backing by providing financial tour support to their Artist Associates.
“Danny has [also] supported us with the 30 Hour Famine [event],” says Konynenbelt. (See old promo video below with still relevant message).
Now Fernandes — kid brother to Canadian pop/R&B star Shawn Desman and a celeb in his own right with two award-winning albums released to date — is about to see first-hand just how essential World Vision’s work is to marginalized people living abroad.
“In June I am going with them for 10 days to the Dominican Republic to help build a school for kids. I think it’s for ages seven and up and there are about eight of us in total going down.
“I can’t recall the exact program, but it’s something World Vision does every year, building a school in a different country. And I am literally hands-on helping to build the school which should be interesting,” he laughs. “I’m not much of a handyman. “
While he cautions that the Dominican Republic trip is not yet writ in stone, Shawn Panio, director of World Vision Canada's Artists Speakers and Events Program, of which Fernandes is a new ambassador, confirms the Caribbean nation is one his organization actively assists.
“Our goal is to take Danny to the field in the near future to see the work we do,” Panio explains. “In the Dominican Republic for example, World Vision currently operates programs for children and families focused on health, HIV/AIDS education and economic development. We are also doing a lot of work on birth registration.
“World Vision Canada has been in the DR for more than three decades,” Panio continues, “and so far, our Canadian donors sponsor close to 9,000 children. Another big aspect of our work is disaster preparedness and most recently we responded to tropical storm Isaac [which slammed the Caribbean and the northern Gulf Coast of the U.S.] in August of 2012.”
As for Fernandes — whose 2013 calendar is already stacked with album and tour commitments, possibly including a first-ever trip to Japan where his second disc, AutomaticLUV, has just been released — the charity work is a way of extracting something good from the often vacuous world of celebrity.
“It absolutely is. With this new single, and much of my new record, I really wanted to show people that celebrity life isn’t all about glamour and money and cars. It can ruin someone’s life. When you are in a position like I am, things are given to you very easily, like going to clubs where they give you alcohol and women are hanging out.
“It’s easy to get caught up in these things. I got used to it and took advantage of situations. I wanted to show people a different side of me. I’m doing that with the new music. But charity is an awesome way of giving back.
“When I see people suffering, I feel bad and I get a sick feeling in my stomach,” Fernandes says. “My parents are also very giving. And I have to say that if Children’s Wish or a similar organization approached me in the future, I would of course help out.”
* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.