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Philanthropist says $500,000 donation was best way to help in the Covid-19 crisis

Sean McNulty digital nomad makes donation helping frontline workers and island businesses (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A Canadian businessman who moved to Bermuda as a digital nomad and donated half a million dollars to support island businesses and frontline workers said he did it to help the place he now calls home.

Sean McNulty, 35, who has been living on the island for seven months, added that support for frontline workers and the economy was the best way he could think of to help Bermuda recover from the pandemic.

Mr McNulty said: "I think that the first responders and frontline workers are a community of people who keep the wheels of society moving.

“Doing things that help those groups – or even things that put a spotlight or a little extra praise on the value of what they already do – is a good thing.”

Mr McNulty said: “I got a lot of good feedback from some Bermudians who were happy that someone was coming from another country and giving back instead of taking.

“I had a few people say ‘you’re not even Bermudian, why are you doing this?’ but they were just so happy either way.”

He added: “It doesn’t matter where you’re from – I think you can make a difference in the community you live in.

“Even if I’m not from here, I live here now and I felt I could make a positive impact. So I did.”

Mr McNulty, who lives in Southampton, donated $500,000 to the Frontline Foundation, an organisation he launched last month to support essential workers and businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funds went towards several schemes, including a 12 day long giveaway that offered $50 gift cards to people who got vaccinated and matched each card with another gift card to an essential worker.

Mr McNulty is the chief executive officer and portfolio manager of Toronto-based asset management firm XIB Financial.

He admitted that the $500,000 donation was “a bit of a shock” to some of his family – particularly because he and his wife, a pharmacist, came from working-class backgrounds – but he added he could afford it.

Mr McNulty said: "I didn’t want to go raise a bunch of money from people that I didn’t know, particularly during what is a more difficult time for many.

“I am fortunate enough to have done well financially, so I said ‘okay, I’ll fund it myself in a way that also supports the people and businesses that are hurting’.”

Mr McNulty, who also made several donations while in Canada and still sits on the board of a children’s hospital foundation, added: “I prefer not to put donations into the black hole or broad-based general budget of an organisation.

“I prefer to see and feel the impact of what I’m doing and for the contributions to have a ripple effect that makes a bigger difference.”

Mr McNulty admitted that, although there was some criticism because the campaign rewarded people who got vaccinated, essential workers and island businesses were universally supported.

He said: “The recipients who are a part of the frontline community represent all of Bermuda, vaccinated or not.

“What we were doing by giving them the gift cards had nothing to do with the vaccine programme – it’s saying ‘thank you’ for what they’re doing for the community.”

Mr McNulty said that he and his family had several ties to Bermuda before he arrived.

He explained that his father, a former police officer originally from the UK, spent eight years on the island before he moved to Canada.

Mr McNulty added that his wife had cousins who lived in Bermuda and that he used to visit on vacation every year or so.

He said: “We knew lots about the place and we’d been here many times, so the only real hesitancy of moving was wondering ‘can I work effectively remotely?’

“Then Covid hit and the silver lining of it for me was that I learnt that I could.”

Mr McNulty added: “Before the remote worker residency certificate programme was even coming out, I was exploring how to live here under independent means, but then someone said ‘there’s this new programme that’s perfect for you, you should apply’ and I did.”

Mr McNulty said that, although he was “a proud Canadian”, he hoped to be able to settle on the island.

He appealed to the public to play its part to help the community.

Mr McNulty said: “That doesn’t have to mean donating money and it isn’t just about getting the vaccine – any person who makes the time to do something nice for someone else makes a difference.”

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Published June 17, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated June 17, 2021 at 7:38 am)

Philanthropist says $500,000 donation was best way to help in the Covid-19 crisis

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