Hi, I believe that there is room for everyone on this planet, as we were born with a unique story, talents and abilities to fulfil our life mission and there is no greater gift we can give to ourselves or the world than really, truly being ourselves.
Because of that, I help people be themselves and share their stories and their passions with the rest of the world.
Sometimes, it means restructuring and launching several medical programmes within a remote hospital of South Sudan. Sometimes, it means organising fun events and competitions in Paris, to raise awareness on specialty coffee and how a good cup of coffee is the result of collective efforts of so many people all along the chain, from seed to cup. Other times, it means preparing conferences in Shanghai so people can share their ideas and innovations with the rest of the world. Lately, it means organising, fundraising and recruiting an international team of teachers and volunteers for a summer camp in rural China.
有时，这些项目可以是在南苏丹偏远地区的医院里重建和启动若干医疗方案；有时，可以是在巴黎组织一些有趣的活动和竞赛，将人们的注意力吸引到精品咖啡上，让人们意识到，从种植一棵咖啡树，到调制成一杯上等咖啡，整个过程凝聚了多少人的辛勤努力; 其它时候，也可以是在上海筹备大型会议，使来自世界各地的人们能够聚集一堂，分享各自的思想和创新 。最近，这项有意义的项目是一个在中国农村举行的夏令营，为夏令营筹款和招募一支由教师和志愿者组成的国际团队。
I truly thrive when working in a multicultural environment, with diverse and cross-functional teams. The more complex the cases, the more fun I have.
What are you most proud of?
It changes with time. I can give you an example: one of the mums with whom I am working in Hunan, recently shared photographs I took of her at work on her social media. She was putting herself under the spotlight for the very first time, and was pleasantly surprised that she could actually look “very pretty” on those images.
I would say there is a real satisfaction in making your team members shine, so they can take pride in their work and realise they all have an essential role to play and they do absolutely belong to the bigger picture.
Tell us more about your interest in photography.
Photography started as a way to take visual notes for myself and record memories. It turned to be something much more to me, as vital as breathing. I realised that not only can I express very complex ideas, projects, experiences, and emotions, but I can also document the journey of my teams, encourage their individual efforts and see what we can achieve together. It became a very powerful tool for personal development.
Can you share some photos and short stories of this?
陈叶芝 Chen Yezhi lives in rural Hunan and works at the new farmers cooperative of Wolong. On September 6, 2017, I accompanied her on one of her daily appointments with the farmers. She really values their work and takes those mountain roads even on a rainy day. There, she checks the quality of the eggs brought by the farmers, and selects those that are suited to be shipped to the city dwellers. She also collects those that have some flaws on their shell for local consumption.
For July 2017, we organised a summer camp in 3 rural villages of the Wolong region of Hunan, where we brought a team of teachers and volunteers from different regions of China and the world. Here above, you see Professor 刘洪涛 Liu Hongtao and Professor 王琳 Wang Lin teaching improvisation during their drama class. They received the most heart-warming love notes at the end of the summer camp. It was a life changing experience for those kids, who never imagined that they could be so creative and have fun at expressing themselves.
Elin Mai Hughes teaching English in various creative outlets: through songs, games and dances. For many kids, it was not only their very first English class but also their very first encounter with a friend from abroad. I can tell you that the parents had fun too. A few weeks ago, I received a message from one of our volunteering mums, who remembered how she had always loved English. After her experience as a teaching assistant, she decided to go back to teaching and got a job as an English teacher in a secondary school.
在课堂上，Elin Mai Hughes通过唱歌，游戏和跳舞等形式在多个富有创意的媒体上教授英语。 对许多孩子来说，这不仅是他们的第一堂英语课，也是他们第一次见到外国人。我可以告诉你，在场的孩子父母也玩儿得很开心。一位妈妈志愿者说她还记得自己是如何地喜欢英语，几周前，我收到了她的信息。经过了这次助教经历，她决定回学校教英语。目前她已经在一所中学里谋到了一份英语教师的职位。
This is a shot of my team working late at night, 5 days before the launching of TEDx Shanghai 2016 on May 2, 2016. You always see the super stars on screens, but what is really dear to me is what happens behind the scenes. Nothing of this, would be possible without the help of hundreds of anonymous and kind hearted souls who came to give us a hand.
Here above, you see Magdalena Brodzinska pouring a latte art during the 14th Frog Fight competition, at Coutume Café on October 11, 2011. Back in 2010, there were only a few coffee roasters and coffee shops in Paris. The quality of coffee we were drinking was pretty bad and with a small group of very passionate people, we decided that it was high time to change that, by organising all kinds of fun events, degustations, seminars and friendly competitions. By the time I left Paris for Shanghai, speciality coffee was literally blooming. What was amazing about this group of people, is they all came from different backgrounds and their uniqueness and personal stories made a huge contribution to serve better coffees in Paris.
上面这一张，你看到的是在Coutume Café咖啡馆里，在2011年10月11日举行的第14届青蛙争夺赛上，Magdalena Brodzinska正在制作一款拿铁。回到2010年，当时的巴黎只有几台咖啡烘焙机和几家咖啡店，我们能喝到的咖啡味道不敢恭维。我们这一小群激情昂扬的人决定，是时候搞一些有趣儿的活动，品尝会，研讨会和友谊比赛来改变它了。等到我启程从巴黎来上海之时，精品咖啡制作已经在巴黎蓬蓬勃勃地兴起。这群人让你着迷的地方是他们来自不同的背景，他们以各自与众不同之处和各自的小故事对巴黎的咖啡服务业作出了巨大的贡献。
There is a whole website dedicated to this project: http://www.missionsouthsudan.org but I have chosen the pictures of a toddler that I took the day she left the hospital and, when I first met her in the paediatric ward.
By being on site, by checking on your team regularly, you get to know what they are going through, how they interact with each other and what you could do to improve their job and working conditions. You witness their struggles, their successes and their evolution. They tell you more about themselves, their family and what they aspire to do next. If you think that Corporate Law, HR and Finance are an office job, I can tell you that there is no better way to check where money goes and how it is spent, how to recruit your new team members and draw up contracts than going to the field.
My team is my Ikigai. 生き甲斐 is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. They are the reason why I get up in the morning.
What does being healthy mean to you?
I believe that being healthy is the fine art of finding and restoring balance between your body, mind, soul and spirit. When I am experiencing pains, injuries or illnesses, I take the time to stop and reflect on which areas of my life I have been neglecting.
How can you find balance in a busy and distracting place like Shanghai?
It is a journey of self-awareness and self-actualisation. Who you are, what you want and what is important to you at this particular stage of your life, is going to influence the environment you choose for yourself. In a city like Shanghai, I prefer to avoid the busier places, opting for a slower pace, calm and luminous spaces to work and live. I find balance by surrounding myself with trees, gardens, lower buildings, neutral colours and people with whom I feel comfortable. People and the quality of your relationships are a key component of your well-being. As you are changing, you have the right to change your mind.
Extract from Active Interview with Darren O’Connor of Relabs.
Active Interview is a series aiming to invite friends, old and new, to come workout with me and discuss ideas, stories and insights about work, life, health, balance and other topics of interest.
Thanks for reading!
“Stay Active – Keep Exploring!”
Translated by Chanel Quan~
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