Describe a day in your life:
There's no two days the same!
Here in Nepal, we are shooting for a grassroots project giving a collective of women the opportunity to make and sell quilts.
We usually wake up around 5am and look over the photos from the day before to make sure we're on track to get the content we need. I try to meditate as much as possible when I'm here, as it's just the most electric, rejuvenating energy, so we'll go into a class around the Boudhanath Stupa at 7am for an hour. The area we are in is primarily a Tibetan Buddhist population, so the smell of incense and the sound of puja drums from the monasteries are always in the air - it's an incredible background for unleashing creativity.
Then after breakfast, we'll head off to what we have planned that day. It can be difficult to keep a schedule in Nepal as people can cancel last minute, or a crazy monsoon rain might come out of nowhere andcancel an afternoon. Patience is key!
Today we met Ravina and Karma, two of the women from Quilts For Kids and take a taxi into Indrachok market in Kathmandu to buy the fabrics for our collaboration quilts. After some spirited bargaining, we head back to the community with the material and spend time with the women and their families.
We work closely with the women, they invite us into their homes and their lives, so it's important to invest the time to build a relationship with them, it's not just about taking a photo and going home - we drink A LOT of masala teas!
We have the afternoon planned at a nearby school, we are giving art classes to the younger kids. They are from 7-9 years old and it's the first time I've tried a finger painting class so I'm pretty nervous!
Some of the kids I met last year, it's lovely to see them again growing up so fast. It goes quite well, to my relief, give or take a few fingerprints on shirts!
I'm really impressed with the kids paintings and once we take a final class photo, we pack up and after another masala tea with Pema, a teacher at the school who helps us organise the classes, we leave around 3pm. We’re all exhausted - kids have so much energy! - and desperate for a late lunch around the Boudhanath Stupa with lots of fresh lemon sodas.
We’re having dinner with a friend of mine, Ram and his family. First, we go to the local Hindu temple Pashupathinath, where Ram works as a tour guide, to watch the nightly 'Light Ceremony' next to the holy
Ganges river and a beautiful sunset over the temple. It's one of my favourite places in the world, a beautiful mix of music and dancing and holy men with candles and people of all ages and monkeys and smoke from the cremations - even though its where 92% of all cremations in Nepal happen, it feels as though all of life is in this place.
After the ceremony, the boys take us on their bikes to Rams house, where his sister is preparing a traditional Thali dinner for us. Rams older brother recently got married so we watch the wedding video, with the family and their dog Tikku, it's a really touching moment. For dessert, the family tries TimTams for the first time - with more masala tea - and then the boys drop us back at the guesthouse and we crash out, exhausted at 9pm.
What does "She Lives Free" Mean to you?
I used to think to 'live free' meant being on a tropical island somewhere drinking coconuts and never working, but now I’ve changed my tune! For me, ‘she lives free’ means the opportunity to pursue your passion and to be fulfilled by it. The freedom to chase your dreams, even if they’re a lot of hard work! I work constantly, make sacrifices, and chase a life of fulfilment. I do things because they are worthwhile to me, not because they’re easy. To me, this is living free.
Tell us about your favourite place in the world...
A lot of special bonds tie me to Nepal and France, but in many ways Madagascar is my favourite place. It's wild and untouched and exotic and welcoming. I love its melange of culture - relaxed Australian beach vibe, French gastronome and language, and African vibrancy, hospitality, and joie de vie. I'm always attracted to the shared human experience, and in Madagascar I feel more at home each time I’m there.
There was a moment in 2014 in a tiny fishing village in the south that I will never forget. We had walked all day to reach this remote village and we were welcomed into the community with a bush party. We danced all night in the sand to this amazing local band with a purple lightning storm in the background. My feet were even bruised from all the dancing but it was one of those moments where you just feel like this is what life is about. The scenery is also breathtaking, and the wildlife is extraordinary. Walking to collect water, a chameleon just casually
strolls in front of you on the path as a few lemurs swing by in a tree! Living in Sydney or any big city, it’s easy to lose that humbling feeling of being just a small part of nature.
Where has your passion for charity come from? Was it always there, or was there a defining moment?
In 2012, a series of events lead to me watching Bill Gates' 2007 Harvard commencement speech in a little beach hut in Mozambique. These words echoed through me : "I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you addressed the world’s deepest inequalities, on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity." I’d been immersed in a world of working hard to accumulate things, and it was a big turning point for me. I began to really value human relationships, and became open and empathetic to peoples different circumstances. I don’t think you can go back after that’s been awakened in you. I’ve dabbled in various ways to give back since then, even studying the Gamsats to do Medicine and Business. It’s been a big life experiment, there’s been no single defining moment. Like all things, it’s taken time - and trial and error - to find what rests comfortably with me.
What is the biggest lesson you've learnt?
Being in Nepal reminds me of when a mentor told me,if you want to truly experience life, you can't look away from the hard stuff, when you most want to look away, you should look most intently.I remember the first time I saw a burning body being cremated at Pashupatinath, and of course, being brought up in western society where we hide death away, I was horrified - but I tried not to look away. And now I've developed a deep respect for how openly other cultures choose to address death. I think it's the same concept with extreme poverty. It's definitely difficult to see, but it's crucial not to look away. See it, look hard, let it effect you on a deep level that another human being has no option but to live like that and put yourself, your children, your family in their shoes. Then use that empathy to drive meaningful, lasting change.