Donated paint brightens up the Third World

Gracie Bonds Staples / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — One of the schools that inspired Rony Delgarde’s dream to bring color to depressed communities is painted a soft pink now.

Paint, Delgarde says, is a scarcity in places like his native Haiti, Kenya and other Third World countries. “You can’t get enough even to paint your home,” he said. And that, he said, is why he founded Global Paint for Charity, a nonprofit that collects leftover paint and uses it for good.

He first organized the charity in 2010 but, in truth, Global Paint was born more than a decade ago as Delgarde rode a bus from Miami to Orlando, Fla., to visit his mother. He spied a road crew repainting the yellow and white lines that delineate traffic, and he was appalled. Painting the road seemed like such a waste.

Delgarde, a Duluth, Ga., resident, would soon discover that in America, paint is used for all sorts of purposes and can be found everywhere, including in many a garage and basement.

What a difference those discarded half-empty cans and buckets of paint could make, he thought, if he could just collect, reprocess and donate them to the needy in developing countries around the world.

Delgarde went on with his life, working as a health care consultant and volunteering in the community. His thoughts seldom turned to paint again until a visit to Uganda and Kenya in 2010, when he was struck by the number of unpainted schools, churches and homes.

There the thought revisited him: “What if?” Back home, he shared his idea with friends. “They laughed,” Delgarde said. No one will donate paint, they told him. It’s too expensive.

He could’ve left it at that, but instead, he called Harold Watkins, a mentor and retired director of sales at Avon.

The idea resonated with Watkins. He told Delgarde about “A Painted House,” a John Grisham story about a boy who lived with his parents and grandparents in a house that had never been painted. In the beginning, Watkins told him, the boy was lusting over a red Cardinals jacket. By the end, he had matured beyond his years, and used his money to buy paint for the house.

“I thought that was exactly what he was trying to do, to help people feel better about their lives,” Watkins said. “I loved the idea so much I wrote a few checks to help him get started.” It was the push Delgarde needed.

To date, Global Paint Charity has collected more than 60,000 new and used gallons of paint. From every 2,000 gallons of used paint, Delagarde can extract about 500 gallons of usable paint. So far, he has distributed some 6,000 gallons, including 500 to Kenya and Uganda.

You can help

Global Paint for Charity accepts latex or oil paint, regardless of amount, age or condition. 678-314-3521 or toll free 855-853-7772; www.globalpaints.org.

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