Building ‘Sports & Leadership’ with Antonija and Bojan

SFGC: Where are you from? Where have you lived? Where’s your favorite place you have traveled?

Antonija: I’m from Croatia, and have lived all over – Belgium, Switzerland, Romania, Turkey, France and Indonesia. I’ve had different experiences everywhere, which is great. I think my favorite place to visit is Shanghai. The city is so impressive. I felt, “lost in translation.” I loved the architecture, the city’s energy and the people. Can’t wait to go back.

Bojan: I’m also from Croatia. I’ve lived in France, Austria and now Singapore, which is far from home but definitely a nice place. It’s warm and I don’t mind skipping the winter. In Europe, my favorite place to visit is Rome. It just has a special energy. In Asia, I really like the Philippines, especially Boracay for the beach.

SFGC: You have both been internationally successful with volleyball. Are you able to recap a moment on the court that was particularly memorable to you? Where and why?

Antonija: The European Junior Championship in Zagreb when I was 17. It was memorable because it was at home and I was able to share the experience with my friends and family. Everyone was there watching.

Bojan: I’ve been playing volleyball since I was 10 and have been fortunate to have had many great experiences. The game has given me a lot. I’d say the best moment for me is hearing the Croatian national anthem. It’s a special feeling representing your country on the court. It gives me goose bumps.

SFGC: Now that you’ve moved from playing to coaching, what are some of the most important messages you communicate to aspiring young players?

Antonija: What I’m trying to teach is self-confidence. I believe it is very important in both life and in sports. Nobody should tell you what you can or cannot do. Achieve more than you think. Carrying traits with you beyond sports. Hard work always pays off.

Bojan: There’s no reason to not go 100%. You can make errors, that’s ok, it happens. But don’t leave your brain at home. If you’re not improving you’re wasting time, and I’m allergic to wasting time.

SFGC: Bojan, you spent three days in Cebu helping to develop Pandoo Foundation’s Sports & Leadership program, using volleyball. What was most exciting about this for you?

Bojan: I knew about Pandoo Foundation from friends in Singapore. I was honored to go. It’s a great organization and environment. The main purpose was to help find the best coaches for the up and coming volleyball program. The Philippines and Volleyball have a special bond – lots of elements of the game today were invented there, like 6v6, three touches and the spike. Filipinos have a natural talent and soft touch for volleyball. It was a great pleasure. And, of course, it was all for the kids... bingo!

SFGC: Global Citizen Crush!?

Antonija: I have two, because it’s too hard to choose one. The first is my mom. She’s always helping everyone she can. She’s cheerful and happy. It’s Incredible to me that someone can always be like this. The second is Colin Jackson. He’s my ‘sports global citizen crush.’ He
was a world champion in hurdles and then after his career he started working
for the Wings for Life World Run. I had the opportunity to hear one of his lectures in Croatia and I was impressed with his energy and love for what he’s doing. So much enthusiasm, and I look up to him for that.

Bojan: Goran Ivanišević– Tennis is my second favorite sport. Goran was a Wimbledon champion and I would love to be able to sit and talk with him. He’s always joking and having fun and he’s passionate about helping youth athletes. 

Benjamin Stephan on Diaspora Investments and Refugees

SFGC: Where are you from? Where have you lived? Where’s your favorite place you’ve visited?

Benjamin: I’m from Vienna, not the imperial Austrian capital, but rather the hinterland of Washington, DC. Geographically speaking, I’ve lived in St. Louis and London. In keeping with Pico Iyer’s orthodox that home has less to do with a piece of soil than a piece of soul, I’ve also lived vicariously through family, friends, and strangers who I’ve met while traveling. Asking my favorite place I have visited is such a loaded question, like asking a mother who her favorite child is. I’d have to say Seno, Laos because of the discoveries I made about my family, and because of the generosity and strength of the people who don’t have much but are willing to give so much.

SFGC: What is it about International Migration and Public Policy that drove you back to school for a second master’s degree?

Benjamin: My initial degree was in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies. I wanted to refine my studies to focus on the nexus between migration and development. Migrants are inherent stakeholders with resources to contribute to development in their homelands. There is no greater indicator of development’s success than empowering people with the freedom of movement, and there is no greater indicator of development’s failure than forced displacement.

SFGC: Now working at The Aspen Institute’s Diaspora Investment Alliance, what is most exciting about connecting people to their country of origin through sustainable investments?

Benjamin: DIA’s mission is to unlock diaspora capital to achieve high social and financial impact in countries of origin. We are designing pathways for diasporas to strategically invest and/or donate in their countries of origin at significant scale and in sustainable ways. It is exciting to match migrants’ desires and capacities with opportunities that lead to impact. I enjoy working with the myriad of actors involved – migrants along the entire wealth spectrum, governments, donor entities, financial institutions, NGOs, academics, etc. – and it’s fascinating to learn the many incentives which contribute to the overall objective of origin country development.

SFGC: Pandoo Nation’s Rescue Camp mini-game incorporates gamified elements of refugee camps in an attempt to educate players on this subject. What do you believe young users can learn from this exposure?

Benjamin: So much. Firstly, that a refugee camp can be many different things – temporary, permanent, a makeshift camp, a mobile village, a city, etc. Users will learn the many push factors that drive people to flee their homes. Most importantly, I hope that users will come to see refugees not as a “burden,” but rather as stakeholders in the solution who have capacities in their own right. This presents a unique opportunity for donor and host nations. Migrants, and particularly refugees, are some of the most entrepreneurial people the world has to offer.

SFGC: Global Citizen Crush!?

Benjamin: It’s weird to say that my parents are my crush, but this question certainly goes to them. My mother was an orphaned child refugee from Indochina who, after an incredible life journey, settled with a position at the World Bank. My father I credit for my own wanderlust and ability to step outside of my comfort zone; when he was my age, he was eloping with his kayak to surf the mighty rivers of Central America and the American West. I’m blessed to have such wise parents who can teach so much.


Social Entrepreneurship with Devin Thorpe

SFGC: Where are you from? Where have you lived? Where is your favorite place that you have visited?

Devin: It has been my privilege to travel around the world. I’ve lived on both coasts of the U.S. and now live near where I was born in Utah, in the western U.S. I’ve lived in China and Argentina. I’ve traveled in Europe, Africa and extensively in Asia. The Taj Mahal is the most impressive structure I’ve seen and the Iguacu Falls on the Argentina-Brazil border are the most impressive natural feature I’ve seen. I find people are wonderful everywhere I’ve been.

SFGC: What was it that originally inspired you to become such an advocate for social entrepreneurship, impact investing, CSR, and, in general, making the world a better place? Was this something that developed over time, or are you able to pinpoint and credit it to a specific person or circumstance?

Devin: The failure of the Teton Dam in Southern Idaho inspired my interest in social good. My father took me to visit Rexburg where 80 percent of the structures had been damaged or destroyed by the flood. I spent a single day there with a large group of people and had the sense, despite not really having done much, that I’d done some good. I pledged then that I would never miss an opportunity to serve. Of course, I did miss many such opportunities, but when I got fired from the best job I’d ever had five years ago, I refocused my career on championing social good.

SFGC: You often mention that your mission is to solve the world’s biggest problems before 2045. What is the significance of that year and why have you chosen it?

Devin: That year is 30 years from now. Looking at the progress of the last 30 years, I’m convinced there is much we can do over the net thirty. I’m especially impressed with the Rotary-led effort to eradicate polio. Taking almost exactly 30 years, the effort has resulted in a 99.9 percent reduction in polio cases and is likely to result in complete eradication within the next 12 months. Following the polio eradication model, we can solve many of the world’s biggest problems.

SFGC: Through our venture, we are aiming to empower today’s youth to become the next generation of changemakers. What is it about harnessing the entrepreneurial desire in young students that you find so intriguing?

Devin: Entrepreneurship drives tremendous change in the world, almost all of it positive. Social entrepreneurship virtually guarantees that innovation will be beneficial to society. As I look at what social entrepreneurs are doing to make the world a better place today, it gives me great hope for the future. Young people have always been our best prospect for a bright future!

SFGC: Global Citizen Crush!?

Devin: The person who I most admire is Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist and author. While I can’t hope to repeat his career or match his skills, he inspires me to be the best I can be and to reach farther and work harder. Kristof’s books Half the Sky and A Path Appears are both powerful, objective analyses of global efforts to solve big problems, especially those impacting the poor. Often, those who are most disadvantaged are women and girls. He’s found a large audience and moves people to action. I aspire to do the same. 

Independence, Dignity and Self-Reliance with Lowell Sheppard

SFGC: Where are you from? Where have you lived? How long have you been in Japan?

Lowell: I am Canadian, but have lived, for the most part, outside of Canada since the late 70’s -- first in Mexico with an NGO and then in Southeast Asia working in the Refugee Camps of Thailand. I moved to Japan in 1995 because I had promised my wife, who was born and raised in Japan, that one day I would follow her there. She called me up on it twenty years ago and here we are now still loving it.

SFGC: What was it about HOPE that inspired you to become involved?

Lowell: I must confess that at first it was a sense of adventure and desire to travel, blended with a world view that the service of others must equal the service of self. I was twelve years old when I suppose I had an epiphany of sorts. I was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the time and through my school I learned of a Miles for Millions Walk that raised money for Development Projects in Haiti. I had no idea where or what Haiti was, but the appeal of walking 35 miles in one day drew me in. The walk was tough, but even tougher was the raising of money. Finishing the walk was fantastic but surpassing my fundraising goal was even more gratifying. It was then that I realized that I could help others while pursuing a personal goal. I have been blending adventure with fundraising ever since.

SFGC: What is your favorite part about being HOPE’s Asia-Pacific Director? Is there one experience or occasion that is particularly memorable?

Lowell: Wow. So many. Overwhelmingly, it is meeting people whose lives have been changed by gaining access to clean water, education, micro credit, etc... as the result of the compassion and generosity of supporters of HOPE, including Pandoo Foundation. It is truly remarkable to observe the ascent from extreme poverty and hopelessness to self-reliance, dignity and daring to dream dreams. The most recent example was Sophi in Cambodia who received her water well four years ago. She now runs a successful noodle business using HOPE well water. She has become very successful as people order her noodles far and wide because she uses the well water rather than river water. A few weeks ago, I was visiting her and she gave my friends and I a 5kg bag of noodles. I asked her how much it cost so I could pay her. Her response, “I do not need your money.” It was a striking display of her independence, self-reliance and gained dignity. Just four year ago she and her family were sick, extremely poor and foraging for food. Now she is a successful businesswomen and her home is full of joy and hope.

SFGC: We are extremely excited about our on-going partnership with HOPE. How do you foresee Pandoo Foundation continuing to impact HOPE’s work?

Lowell: Pandoo and HOPE share the same values and aims. It has been great to collaborate in Cambodia and also raise funds and awareness at the HOPE Gala’s in Singapore. We are becoming family and together I believe we can raise millions of dollars to help more families like Sophi in Cambodia.

SFGC: Global Citizen Crush!?

Lowell: I have so many. Family, friends, distant heroes, historical figures. But to narrow it down to a single person at this point in time? It is my Grandson, Eli Luke Pepito Sheppard. He is four years old, and I am determined to do my part in facing the challenges of today that will affect him tomorrow. Most of all, I want to model for him that a life of giving is a life that is superbly gratifying. Last year, I was telling his parents over dinner (my son, Ryan, is Canadian and my daughter-in-law, Maria, is a Filipina) in Tokyo that I had decided never to retire. But I wanted to continue doing what I am doing and that the primary motivator was their son, my grandson. Eli, who had been on the chair next to me playing (he was not quite three at the time) suddenly stopped playing, stepped onto my lap, put his arms around my neck and said, “Thank you, Grandpa.” I think we all want the next generation to look back at our own and say, “Thank you.” 

Elizabeth Hernandez – Creating Shared Value

SFGC: Where are you from? Where have you lived? How long have you been in Singapore?

Elizabeth: I’m originally from the Philippines, the daughter of a career diplomat, so I left the country the first time when I was six years old and lived in Paris, France (1972-1975) and Bucharest, Romania (1975- 1978). I studied at French schools for most of my elementary education. Then I returned to the Philippines for high school and college, before going to Washington, DC to pursue a graduate degree in International Affairs. I ended up studying and working in Washington, DC for four years (1989-1993), Hong Kong for nine years (1993-2002) and finally here in Singapore for the past 12 years (2002 to date).

SFGC: Working with various governments is the epitome of being a “global citizen”. What is it about this that you enjoy so much?

Elizabeth: I’ve always wanted to contribute to Asia’s economic development and solve some of our toughest challenges in the region. But this requires creative partnerships between different stakeholders – government, private sector and civil society. It can be challenging at times, but the sweet spot in corporate affairs is when you can get different stakeholders to come together on a common cause or mission. That’s what I enjoy the most – creating shared value.

SFGC: You recently joined the Board of Directors of HOPE International Development Agency’s Singapore Chapter. What’s been the best part about this so far? What are you looking forward to doing in the future?

Elizabeth: HOPE is a great organization helping to uplift the lives of some of the poorest families around the world. They only recently set up their Singapore chapter. HOPE Singapore is focusing on programs and partnerships in Southeast Asia, including in my home country, the Philippines, so it seemed like a great fit. I can use my extensive network in Singapore, among multinational companies as well as within the Filipino community, to help establish HOPE’s brand and rally support for its various programs around Southeast Asia. I particularly like the education program for indigenous children and youth in Mindanao, as it seems to be a sustainable program that brings much needed skills back into their remote communities. I hope we can build HOPE’s presence in Singapore beyond the Annual Gala and get more people involved not just as donors, but also as volunteers. This is becoming more and more important particularly among millennials.

SFGC: HOPE’s annual Singapore Gala is coming up this weekend. Is your table ready to #GameForHOPE?

Elizabeth: Of course! It should be a very memorable evening in support of both HOPE and Pandoo Foundation. Let the countdown begin!

SFGC: Global Citizen Crush!?

Elizabeth: I have a great role model and mentor at HP. Her name is Gabi Zedlmayer and she leads our global citizenship programs, called Living Progress. In terms of a more public figure, I admire Bill and Melinda Gates and what they have done in healthcare, especially in promoting the value of vaccines. It’s crazy to think that there are still millions of children who die from vaccine preventable diseases.