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I recently started to help some friends develop goals for their lives, and begin the process of making them a reality. What I discovered though is that goals only make sense when you know what your purpose is. If you don’t know WHAT you want […]
Geraldine Morelli started her own charity in support of wild animals in 2014, and after connecting with her through Instagram, I asked her if she would do an interview with me. Art intersects with so many aspects of life, and finding ways to not only create but to make a difference in the world is what we’re all about here at The Heart and Mind. It is my hope that through her story, many of you will see the urgency of working towards the conservation of all species on this planet.
I’m fascinated by your work and would like to know more about how it all began. Was it a moment where you said, “I need to start an organization to help wild animals” or was it a slow process or how exactly did you come to the idea of starting this charity?
In a nutshell, the decision of starting the charity happened after years of volunteering in a primate rehabilitation centre in South Africa and observing some issues that I believed needed to be addressed.
I fell in love with the African wildlife after a two day safari in Kenya in 2005. When I had the opportunity to take some time off between a change of job in 2006, I knew I wanted to go back to Africa. I wasn’t very familiar with the concept of volunteering as it isn’t as common in France as in the UK but I was encouraged to work with animals since I have always loved them. After a bit of research, I decided to go to a specific primate rehabilitation centre in South Africa because unlike many places I had looked up, they rehabilitate and release primates back to their natural habitat. Little did I know that it would change my life!
I went volunteering there for a few weeks and completely fell in love with Vervet monkeys and Chacma baboons. I loved working everyday to help the centre care for 600 monkeys and even had the chance to go on a safari again. I then went back every year with a break when I had my two children, but returned again with my daughter when she was three and kept going regularly. I learnt so much there but also came to realise that the way they rehabilitate and release those primates wasn’t necessarily the same way that other centers did. And it appears that there are some failures, which translates in the death of animals as they aren’t ready to live and fend for themselves once they are released back to the wild. So I started to research a little more about what other centres did worldwide and was quite shocked to see very low statistics of release success. Some mentioned 45% survival rate and others 30% while the centre I volunteered at had a 98% survival rate of their troops after one year of being released! The other issue I noticed was that it is incredibly costly to care for all these animals in the rehabilitation centre. They need food everyday, the babies needs milk or formula, those injured need treatment and special diets, veterinary costs, the enclosure needs to be maintained and there is always something unplanned happening! A car breaks down and suddenly it is a huge cost that needs to be covered. This is without even considering preparing the animals for the release when the perfect release site needs to be found, temporary enclosures need to be erected, volunteers need to be monitoring the troop and therefore live away from the centres. Everything is so expensive but in most cases, these places rely on voluntary donations. This seems so unfair to me!
So I decided to do something about it at my pace, at my level of capacity, but at least to try to help. I set up the charity and looked for the rehabilitation centres that successfully rehabilitate and release primates, and I fundraise for them so they can release those beautiful animals to where they belong, which also has an impact on their ecosystem as they play a major role in maintaining healthy habitats. I have a longer list of centres than those I have helped so far, but with little funds I can’t help everyone at once, unfortunately. The idea, which I haven’t yet implemented fully, is that the centres working with the same species talk with each other about the issues they face and the solutions they have found. In other words, I would like them to share best practice. Too many of them work in silo or see competition with each other and I think it is a real shame. They could really benefit from learning what others do, and at the end of the day the animals are the ones that should be the focus. I don’t restrict the charity scope to primates only though, I have helped a project working with the Iberian Lynx and I am very interested to help centres that work with pangolins too. I have been able to put some people in contact with others who work with the same species and I am very happy that they are willing to help and listen to each other.
I am running the charity on the side of my work and family (I have 2 children) so I am not making as much progress as I would like, but again, every little help makes a difference and it is an amazing feeling. I am meeting such amazing and inspiring people along the way, both professionals or volunteers. I am learning something everyday, I love it and can’t see myself ever stopping from doing this!
Could you please tell me what you find interesting or fascinating about the vervet monkeys and chacma baboons?
My fascination for Vervet monkeys is probably directly related to my experience as they were the first species I learnt about through caring for orphans and I have some stories that I hold so preciously in my heart. Needless to say that a woman’s maternal instincts kick in the second these tiny fluff balls look at you in the eyes and reach out to you to fall asleep in your arms. Add to this the fact that they are traumatised as they have likely seen their mother killed. It is impossible not to be touched, moved and fall in love. Spending time with babies is of course incredible. When they fall asleep on you, suck your finger or nibble your ear for comfort, play and be cheeky, you realise what incredible personalities they have. They are so beautiful with their grey fur tinted of many shades, their fluffy white bellies, adorable black faces. The adult males are particularly striking. And they are so clever.
I was introduced to baboons a little later but they have also stolen my heart big time! The first word or image that comes to my mind when I think about Baboons is their eyes. They have the most amazing intense orange eyes that say so much about their intelligence. They never stop thinking, planning, listening and of course, looking. Never.
In the end, what I really learnt is that although they aren’t the most popular primates in Africa, through my time caring, observing and learning about them, you can totally fall in love with them. And this is the attitude I have with every animal now, especially the less known or popular ones, because I genuinely believe they each hold some amazing facts. If only we gave them a chance. I think we are incredibly blessed to be surrounded by wildlife in all parts of the world. This way of viewing wild animals is, I believe, thanks to Vervet monkeys and Chacma baboons. Considered as pests and persecuted, yet totally winning my heart over.
How have you gone about promoting your charity?
I am so grateful for Social Media as it is a great way to reach people across the globe, which is important as our projects aren’t limited to one country or region, and the news we share concerns all wildlife. However, not everyone is on Social Media, especially the younger generation who I believe are crucial to address and educate on wildlife matters, or the older generation who may have seen the decline of species over time and therefore more likely to understand the urgent need to support and share messages.
Facebook was the first tool I used to promote the charity as well as with my friends on my personal page. The way I use Facebook is to both inform on charity news and raise awareness. I follow many wildlife rehabilitation centres on Facebook, but also receive news based on key words from the web every morning so I scan and select the relevant ones.The content is always related to wildlife rehabilitation, rescues, threats, successes, new species. I also use twitter and Instagram but really need some help as social media can take up a lot of time! And there are a lot of charities out there doing great work and also needing support, so it may be a little overwhelming for people.
That is why I am also working on new ways to use technology and get people closer to the cause, especially as my background is in this area. I am preparing something quite exciting involving Virtual Reality, I can’t wait to show it to people when it is ready!
In the end, my preferred way of communicating is by talking directly to people about the charity. It is a lot more personal and I think that people like establishing a connection with the person behind a charity. I find that passion and emotion are better expressed when I talked rather than when I write, perhaps due to English not being my native language or simply because I don’t overthink what I say as much.
I had the great opportunity to do a TEDx talk, which has also generated some support and interesting discussions. What an experience it was! Another amazing feedback is to see the audience’s reaction. It can be really touching. I presented to young children in primary schools and older ones at college. They had great questions and many were genuinely interested and willing to support us, which is really wonderful.
I have done a few fundraising events, always accompanied by a speech, which are also a great way to promote the charity. It is hard work though, takes time to prepare and may involve some costs, which although minimal, I want to try to avoid as we are a small charity. Luckily I did have some help from volunteers, which made them great and fun events.
Finally, I tried to partner with relevant organisations or those whose objective is to help small charities, and this proved really efficient.
Although being a small charity can be quite tricky at times and has obvious downsides, it is easy to be transparent about the work we do, where donations go etc, which I think is very important for people. Also, I do love the fact that I am able to directly contact and communicate with people, so it is more personal and the bonds we create are stronger.
How can we (as the readers) help you achieve your goals?
Thank you so much for asking this question, it would be impossible to achieve my goals without help, so I really appreciate it.
I feel that I need to explain what the goals are before explaining how to help me achieve them. So my answer contains both aspects: what and how
First of all, it would be great if you could follow us on Social Media, mainly on Facebook as the main purpose is to raise awareness but also on Instragram or follow me on Twitter. We will hopefully make you appreciate the beauty of nature and its wildlife and inform you on some issues and successes you may not be aware of or help you see them from a different angle. Awareness, education, inspiration, are all very important to making the world a better place.
Then, to be more involved in the work we do, it is important to break it down into different types of goals.
The short term goal of the charity is to continue supporting successful rehabilitation centres in their work through grant making and to start building a “pocket of funds” for new projects so they don’t have to wait for months until we reach our target for them. Donations and fundraising activities are very welcome of course. When doing so, you can choose for the funds to go towards a specific project where 100% of the amount is sent to the centre with the reassurance that it is put in good use for the animals, or to the charity in general and we allocate the funds where it is most needed or across a few projects. It doesn’t matter where you live or how much you can raise, we live in a world where we can all be easily connected and donations add up quickly. We don’t need millions to help rehabilitation centres (though that would be quite awesome!), because remember that these centres rely on people like us to be able to do their wonderful work, and 1 euro goes a long way in some countries. I want people to be proud of saying “I helped in giving freedom and increasing the population of this or that species,”and therefore be a part of conservation success stories.
For people in the UK, there is a platform called Give as you Live where a percentage of your online shopping (pretty much anything you can think of from buying a pen to booking a holiday) goes to the charity at no extra cost to you. I often insist on this because it is very clever, costs nothing and if we could have a lot more people on board, it would make a huge difference.
The mid term goal is, in addition to the above, to develop this community of rehabilitation centres that can share information and best practice, and of course we want to be there to help with funds to support improvements. I believe in cooperation and not competition, especially when it comes to the lives of animals! I have started putting people who work with the same species in touch and it is working well, but it is all behind the scenes and I would really like to make it accessible to more centres. For this, I really need a developer volunteer who can build this community and forum for the charity on the website. So if anyone is interested, please let me know!
The longer term goal is that all existing rehabilitation centres are successful at rehabilitation and releasing or reintroducing wild animals, and new ones are created where currently there are none in regions with endangered species. How can those animals stand a chance with no facilities to help them? Based on my own research among countries that have indigenous primates, there could be a staggering 33% of countries with vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered primates that do not have a facility to rehabilitate them!
Releasing wild animals has an impact on other species sharing the same habitat. Globally speaking, this goal has to work hand in hand with other organisations focusing on habitat protection, local awareness and involvement in wildlife management, the relentless fight to end poaching and the illegal trade and other conservation activities that make up the conservation effort. We are one piece of the conservation puzzle, but one piece that many are not aware of and actually a really important part.
In the end, people will want to help if they feel an emotional connection to the cause. And the best way to achieve this is to either see them in the wild, or to go volunteering in rehabilitation centres and experience first hand how to save some species and the work that is involved in doing so. If I could, I would spend my time doing this! It is so incredible to work with animals, get to know them, their behaviour, and be a part of their journey back to the wild. It is hard work but way more rewarding than one may imagine. Then, I am sure that someone wouldn’t think twice about supporting us ;-). Immerse yourself in Virtual Reality experiences that brings you closer to wild animals in their natural habitat. You won’t regret it!
Finally please do get in touch if you want to ask a question about the charity, need some advice about places to volunteer with animals, would like to volunteer for the charity even if you have limited time available or simply to say hi. I am quite a social creature and will reply shortly 🙂
What is the most rewarding aspect of running an NGO?
I’ve come to realise that no matter the size of a non-profit organisation, no matter how much is raised, when you help in making a positive impact on the cause you care about, it is worth doing it. So to me, knowing that every penny raised and sent directly to the projects we select makes a difference to each animal benefiting from it is extremely rewarding. For example, when we raised funds for Wildtracks rehabilitation centre in Belize, it helped release three troops of critically endangered Yucatan Black Howlers monkeys back to their natural habitat. After a year of their release, it was observed that 11 babies were born in the wild, increasing their population by 5%. What can be most rewarding than hearing this news?
There is another very rewarding aspect of running a non-profit that needs to be mentioned as it is related to the above: people. Since I’ve started the charity and in particular in the past year that I was able to dedicate more time to it, I have felt really lucky and grateful to meet like-minded people, inspiring individuals and passionate souls who wanted to help and/or support me and the charity. I made new connections, and new friends. we are all in the same boat and it is very heart-warming to see how each individual makes a difference on the achievements we target and in boosting my energy so high! There have been some difficult times both in my personal life and with the charity, but by keeping the focus on animals and those who support me always helped me to quickly get back on my feet and keep going. One step at a time, but always moving forward. It is such an exciting and rewarding journey.
Running the charity also had a side effect, as it made me a lot more compassionate to the world around me and I feel that I became a better person with simple and small changes like smiling more, helping, saying something nice out loud, and looking for the positive lessons in any experience. In general, being more turned out to the world than only to my inner circle. I makes me happier and in turn, it seems to translate in real kindness from the outside world.
I can genuinely say that the charity gave me a purpose and that I can see myself doing this all my life.
I smile everyday.
Thank you so much Geraldine for your time. We wish you continued growth and success in your conservation efforts.
If you want to find out more on how you can help support her charity, please check out her website https://www.wildnfree.org/
My wife and I had the chance to travel to the island of Mallorca in February and spent some really enjoyable days in the Spanish sun. On our last day there we decided to do a city tour of Palma. Whether by luck or providence, we stumbled upon an establishment called “Bits of Glory.” What caught our attention was something that looked liked a croissant but was shaped liked a muffin. We were so fascinated by it that we just had to try it. The taste and flavours in my mouth cannot be explained in words. This encounter lead me to get in touch with the owners and as result, a friendship has developed.
How and when was the idea born of opening a bakery or “bakehouse” as you call it?
Bits of Glory was founded last January by Daniel (the baker) and I, Silvana (the designer). We are partners and also a couple. A convincing proof that work and love can go hand in hand to form a great tandem.
We met in Madrid almost seven years ago. There, we had a homemade & ecofriendly restaurant for two years: Motha Madrid. The restaurant was a hit, but life in the big capital did not fill us at a personal level. We are lovers of nature, the sea and for us it is super important to enjoy moments of disconnection, nourish body and mind, and be able to develop our work with the quality standards in product and service that we want. That is why we left our comfort zone and decided to launch ourselves towards the adventure of starting over from scratch on this wonderful island: Mallorca.
We are declared foodlovers and wanted to innovate in a sector like the bakery. Create a new concept around it and offer a new, differentiating experience where people and the quality of the product are the fundamental values and authentic protagonists.
Daniel, since you originally come from Argentina, I would like to know what lead you to move to Spain and how has your experience been in Europe as a chef?
I’ve always been a restless, self-taught person. When I finished studying gastronomy and culinary arts in Argentina, my mind could not stop thinking about living new experiences, trying new things and continuing to learn from other cultures. I have had the opportunity to travel a lot and that has made me a better professional and I think (hopefully), a better person.
My experience as a chef in Europe has allowed me to develop my entrepreneurial side: to listen to what people want or need, to detect market trends, to learn to develop new creative concepts around gastronomy, to be able to innovate and offer a more global experience, not just in a culinary sense. I believe in an honest kitchen, where the raw materials are respected and where the experience becomes memorable.
And Silvana, I know you previously worked in “advertising,” so can you tell me what the transition was like going from a corporate career to having your own business? Was the process difficult?
After working many years for advertising agencies in Madrid, the idea of developing my creativity and turning my experience into a single brand seemed to me the most natural way to continue professionally. In addition, another important change in my mind occurred with the entry of social networks. When the world was only offline, I often had the moral dilemma of developing campaigns for brands that promised or said things that were not true.
But social networks made the world of marketing and advertising more honest. At last, the message was not unidirectional, now there is a dialogue and this makes the companies/brands have to be more conscious, more real, more human, closer. Everything I did not like about my profession took an unexpected turn. Now, doing things right in this field does not depend on the money or level of investment you have or may have. It depends on how true you are and the passion you are able to convey. And what better way to do it than to develop your own project! There can be nothing more authentic, no more personal or more from the inside. It is something magical and highly recommended.
As our site is dedicated to art, I would like to know where the inspiration for your new culinary creations comes from?
We find inspiration in our trips, nature, talks with friends or unknown people in markets, books, suggestions from our clients, photographs, moments in our memory with relatives or friends…
What is the process for deciding what to prepare for the next day?
We like to listen to our clients, their suggestions or opinions are the soul of our project. We have even made flavor updates with ideas suggested by them (like including cinnamon in the dough of some of our cruffins).
Each evening, after finishing the work day, the two of us meet and discuss everything that happened throughout the day. We analyze it, try to improve processes or incorporate new ideas… The bakehouse is a living organism, constantly evolving like life itself, people, society.
What is the purpose of this project that you have started? What do you intend to achieve and how do you intend to achieve those goals?
The beginning of all change is to begin to think about it (a lot of people do not even get to do this kind of transcendental question). That means that there is something inside us that wants to flourish, that we feel like communicating things, expressing ourselves, to feel useful and to continue learning and improving day by day. That feeling is the soul of feeling alive.
Bits of Glory is a bidirectional project: both at the public/customer level (with product quality and a global differentiating experience) and at the company level. We would love to see this venture grow, to have the opportunity to transmit our values as a company to our workers, train them, take care of them, give them new opportunities and show them that with passion and effort they can achieve all of their goals. And to be able to transmit all this in other cities, other countries… Create a great community! You should never stop dreaming, you know?
One of the things I learned from our previous project is that we always have to think big. It’s the only way to be prepared to grow. Thinking small only puts limits. So never stop thinking big.
Maybe this is also linked to the other thing I learned from our first venture. You have to have resources to deal with failure but you have to be even more prepared to face success. Plan growth, try to be as exponential as possible, evaluate the operations both in terms of production and the attention to the public. Know how to diversify the business, be open to collaborative ideas, coworking, innovation. Only fate knows how far we will reach, but our eyes are always on the horizon.
Do you have any ideas on how to create collaboration or coworking with other people? What are some collaborations you have already made with other entrepreneurs or artists?
We have many collaborations in mind but not all have come to fruition. It is necessary that both parties have the same disposition and share the same spirit of collaboration and unfortunately, many times this does not happen. But we have other ideas that hopefully we can put into action soon: such as home deliveries in a limited area by bicycle, in collaboration with some bicycles in the neighborhood. Even a small foodtruck that in the summer season approaches the beaches of the city. We would also like to fill the walls of the bakehouse with works by emerging artists and illustrators, and so on.
In Madrid, we made collaborations that were very satisfactory, both at the business and personal level: We made a breakfast kit for a course given by the photographer Álvaro Sanz; we started bread workshops, participated in the Celebración of DecorAcción and other events.
We are always open to new ideas and to support and help projects with soul.
What are some of the difficulties (challenges) you faced when starting this business?
One of the main difficulties that we have found in developing this business, perhaps no one is expecting this answer, was to find a house in Mallorca. When we arrived last June we had to stay at a campsite in Esporles (Sierra Tramuntana) because there were no places in hotels or hostels. But since we are nature lovers and into camping, we did not care. We thought that in a couple of weeks we would find something, but that was not the case. Not even through real estate agencies was it possible. The real estate market on the island is very complicated for social housing (non-tourist) and after spending two and a half months in the campsite, we finally found a home, but only thanks to an English teacher we met at the campsite. He is from Barcelona and comes to Palma in the summer to teach. One of his students told him that her father had just bought a flat and offered to rent it out. Were it not for this friendship, I do not know if we would have succeeded in finding a suitable place to live.
Another challenge has been the marked seasonality of tourism on the island. Here, the season is very long: it starts in April and ends in early October. But even with that we had enough courage to open in January, because the local public is also very important to us and it seemed to us that it was essential that we began to know and pamper them as well.
At the administrative level, it has been infinitely simpler to realize the undertaking here than in Madrid (much faster and cheaper).
How are you doing with the business in the first few months of getting started?
Opening in a low season month has allowed us to finish designing our products and preparing the production mechanics for the most intense months. In addition, in order to find an outlet for the daily production that is not sold, we have put into action our social-civil responsibility. We donate what is not sold each day to the Church Of the Capuchinos who are responsible for delivering it to people who do not have resources or are going through difficult times. It is our particular granito de arena to create a better world!
Our balance of these first few months could not be better. The vast majority of customers who try us repeat! And many have become regulars, so we even know their names and are now friends. We still can not say that our business is profitable but we know that by giving people time to know us, become familiar with the novelty of the products and the business model, try us and enjoy the Bits Of Glory experience in full… Everything will come! We continue to work day by day to improve, overcome and offer the best of ourselves. We believe in the project and we will give it our all!
You two are an inspiration and a positive force in this world. The Heart and Mind community wishes you much success and prosperity in all of your endeavours.
Why do I create art?
Well, this I a natural process. It is something that I can’t even imagine not being done, it feels like a sort of energy that has to be released almost by instinct. Besides the part of energy releasing, there is also the side of bringing something to the world that could affect many people’s lives positively. So, I basically create art not only for my personal needs but also for knowing that my art might be contributing to improving other people’s quality of life.
What inspires me?
My art is mostly inspired by my own life. The music I listen to is something that moves me to create. As an abstract painter, I connect with music that I consider matching with my art, such as Jazz and experimental electronic for its harmony and sense of improvisation. My surroundings also provide me with a lot of inspirations through its colors and dynamic. Artists who created abstract art during the first half of the 20th century have been a great source of inspiration as well.
What do I want to convey with my work?
I want to deliver an aesthetic experience that can contribute to improving lives, especially through street murals where it can benefit a greater number of people.
Amauri Torezan is an abstract artist from Brazil living and working in South Florida. You can find more of his art on Instagram and his personal website. Don’t forget to support and share the work of these wonderful artists.
Many of us are running after things that we believe will bring us happiness. We toil and labor endlessly in order to reach what we perceive to be the purpose of life. Until we burn out or realize (much too late) that it hasn’t satisfied us.
Perhaps we need to take a step back and re-evaluate. I suggest a trip to the mountains would do you good.