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Celebrating Family, Art and Connections in East Africa

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

My Name is Jeff Montgomery. I feel like most people in general would know me as Heather Haynes’ husband…I often refer to myself in that way. I usually get an “Oh, yes I know Heather!" type of response, with which, I am 100% OK.

I am very proud to be married to Heather Haynes, as she is a person whom I greatly admire. She has taught me so much about life, love, loving life and loving myself and being selfless. I am constantly blown away by her adventurous spirit, her willingness to say "yes" to situations where many would shy away, her openness to trying to solve problems whereby the creative solutions enhance people’s lives. She is a role model for me. I enjoy being on the team, helping Heather. She needs a good support system, while trying her best to help many, many people.

Heather began traveling to Africa in 2008. She went with our son Whit, who was 11 at the time, to Uganda to help distribute bed nets in an effort to prevent the spread of and eventually eradicate malaria. The two weeks they spent there, changed them. In fact it has had a massive effect on our entire family. Since this time we have travelled to Africa 3 times as a family - trips ranging from 4 weeks to 10 weeks.

We have always tried to make use of our skills and knowledge to help the locals, wherever we go. Out of our family, Heather has been to Africa the most - a dozen times or more. She spends her time in Tanzania and DR Congo, where she has made great collaborative efforts to develop support networks for vulnerable persons through community empowerment.

Using creative and fine arts as an impetus, she encouraged and promoted the journey taken by former street kids in Moshi, Tanzania to build themselves up to model citizens. These local leaders are now giving back and enabling other street kids to do the same.

In Goma, DR Congo, Heather uses her creative problem-solving approach to help establish and actively support initiatives that provide safe homes, sustenance, education and healthcare for hundreds of orphaned children. She is always scheming as to what simple solution can be applied to solve the next challenge, or how to make someone’s life easier through an uncomplicated, creative approach. A lot of the time she says it is as simple as making connections - she sees a need somewhere and she knows someone that could help fill that need. She says she is just connecting the dots.

The connections come when she has an inspired moment, and they are always obvious - after they appear!

Connections are like bridges that help us navigate through difficult terrain, and make the journey much smoother. Instead of trying to do everything ourselves, we can reach out to others who posses the expertise we are looking for. I have seen Heather in action many times, building these bridges, and they are fascinating to witness. One of my favourite times is when Heather was able to connect one of our Congolese friends (who is a general surgeon, studying to expand his expertise) to a top neurosurgeon in Kingston, Ontario. Through bridging the gap between these two physicians - by virtually bridging the Atlantic Ocean - a child’s life was saved when a delicate neurosurgery was successfully performed. Amazing.

Heather also has a massive art project that is inspired and based on the orphan children we help support in DR Congo. The piece is entitled Wall of Courage and it depicts 81 orphaned children on 80 separate canvases that all attach to make a huge art installation. It is a beautiful and moving art piece. We have created a 25 minute documentary that describes the work that Heather and others are doing in DR Congo and I invite you to watch it if you have the time. It is an inspiring and emotional short film. Here is a link.

But what got me thinking about writing this was a short video we made a few years ago to help promote Wall of Courage, even before it was completed. It was in the final moments of it that Heather described her Wall as a bridge.

I always thought it was a brilliant analogy and one that people could visualize and remember. It has stuck with me for a number of years, and so when I learned of the new venture, Bridging Post, I immediately thought this video should be included on the site. I am pleased to be able to contribute in a small way to the Bridging Post with these few words and this short, but impactful video.


Jeff Montgomery is a proud father of two wonderful sons and a loving husband to Canadian artist Heather Haynes.  Together, he and Heather own and operate Heather Haynes Gallery where they sell Heather’s art and art related apparel and accessories.  One of his goals is to ensure that Heather has enough time in her painting studio, as this is the one thing that keeps all other things possible.  An avid musician and songwriter, Jeff has gathered many talented musicians together over the years to perform his original material in front of private and public audiences.  He has had the privilege to tour across Canada exactly one time in a traveling band.  Jeff also plays an important role in Worlds Collide Africa, an initiative started by Heather in 2008 that helps to support vulnerable populations in DR Congo.  Jeff has traveled to Africa 3 times over the years for a total of 20 weeks duration.


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