Interview snippet with Christine Amour-Levar

This is a small section of the podcast episode with Christine Amour-Levar on A Culture of Kindness. Full episode can be heard on the A Culture of Kindness podcast.


Nahla

Christine, thank you so much for coming on a culture of kindness podcast season four. I'm incredibly grateful to be chatting to you today for so many different reasons. But we're also going to talk about Tough Girls. And you featuring on that and why you featured on that. We are fellow Tough Girls together, and but also some really interesting pieces of work that you're doing around leadership. And yeah, I'm really excited to speak to you. I guess first of all, though, maybe you could just share a little bit about yourself, and the things that make you happy.



Christine

Thank you so much for inviting me on the show. And then it's such a pleasure to meet you. I'm delighted to be here and to have a chat with you. And so for our listeners, I guess I'll give you a bit of background as you requested. So I'm based in Singapore, I've been based in Singapore for the last 15 years, I originally came to run the marketing for Nike here. So always my life was connected to sports. Growing up, I grew up in the Philippines. So my mother's Filipino, my father's French and Swiss. But I grew up most of my early years in the Philippines. And as I started through life, you know, sports had always been a huge part of that. So played a lot of different sports basketballs huge in the Philippines, I think football, or soccer as the Americans call it. And then had opportunity to travel and live and work in many parts around the world, starting out with university in Japan, and then went off to work in the United States where I joined Nike for the first time, and also spend time in Europe. So that's a little bit of me in a nutshell.

That's amazing. What are the things that really make you happy?


Christine

So there's quite a few things. But as you can probably imagine, adventure travel. You know, being around nature makes me so happy. One of that our last expeditions when we were in Mongolia a couple of years ago. And when we arrived in the beautiful clearing, we were so blown away by the beauty of nature that we all started crying after a long day of tracking. I mean, you know, nature really gives me strength and makes me happy in so many ways. And of course, another big part of my happiness is my family. I have four children and a loving husband, I am very lucky. So I'm very grateful for for my family around me. They're all here in Singapore at the moment.



Let's talk a little bit about you know why you were featured on tough girls, but the expedition's that you are leading right and the things that you've been doing over over the recent years. I'd love to hear a little bit more about that.


So I interviewed on the Tough girls podcast a few years ago, and I believe the conversation was centred around my first NGO called 'Women on a mission'. So Women on the mission started about eight years ago, I started it, co founded it with two other partner who are dear friends, and who are very adventurous in spirit and in mind as well, just like me. We've been doing that, you know, across many countries and taking all female teams to different parts of the world all the way from the Arctic Circle, down to the Antarctic, Mongolia, Himalayas. All these expeditions have been to raise awareness and funds for vulnerable women. Now, about three and a half years ago, I set up a second NGO called her Planet Earth on a similar model to Women on a Mission also taking all female teams on challenging expeditions. But the focus is much more on the environment. It is to raise awareness and funds for underprivileged women who are affected by climate change. Because as if you look at the research around the world, and you look at where climate change is affecting people, it affects a lot of poor people, and especially women who are working in agricultural roles in Asia in particular. So we direct our fundraising and awareness building to support these women.

Wow, that's fascinating. How did you discover these causes? I wouldn't necessarily know and I'm sure there are many listeners that wouldn't know that people were affected by the environmental impacts and particularly women.


Christine

No. We didn't reinvent the wheel. And in some ways, you know, actually, the first time I heard about it was through my one of my partners because she had been volunteering with this charity based in the UK called Women for Women International, who you may have heard about, it's been around for many, many years and supports women survivors of war and they had organised a fundraising trip with some of their supporters to trek to Everest base camp. That was many years ago, maybe about 13/14 years ago, and it was led by a British mountaineer who had summited Everest. So my partner and Valerie had been on that trip and had been so inspired by the idea of this beautiful trip, and they had raised a lot of money. And so when I met her in Singapore, and she had decided to climb all the way to the summit of Everest, because she's young, she's very athletic. And she decided that was what she wanted to do at that point in her life. And she said, 'Why don't we get a group of friends and do something similar and support women for women International, out of Singapore. So the idea didn't really come from us, as you know, many people do marathons, to raise funds for different charities, we just created a bit of a story around the trade, more branding, you know, we and my background is, as I mentioned, working for Nike, in marketing and communications. So anything I do, I like to try to raise awareness. And I really did put my marketing hat on very early on, and we came up with a logo, we did some social media, we got written up in the press, and it kind of grew out and started being part of our story.


We were women on a mission. The first press release I wrote was women on a mission to reach higher ground, which was a play on words, for our first trek to Everest base camp, you know, obviously trying to reach a higher ideal to some extent. And so it kind of grew that way, you know, and we started getting messages from women around the world saying, I heard about your trip, I heard you raised $100,000 for this charity, how can I join? And before you knew it, we really had this demand, not just in Singapore, but in many parts of the world, for women to join our expeditions in the our life changing expeditions there. They're tough expeditions that are well planned. We work with many different tour operators around the world. But they are designed to be challenging, but also transformational. In many ways.



Do you think there was an impact on the women that took part in that?


Christine

I do believe so. I'm in touch with most of them still, today, I have all the WhatsApp groups for all my different tracks, Iberia, Kenya, you know, Greenland, we keep in touch, there's a real sisterhood that bonds us when you take on a challenging trek like that.

People greet each other for their birthdays, or share an article that comes up thats relevant. You know, a lot of them have told me that they gained new confidence in themselves because their colleagues, their family, their children, some of them have young kids, some of them have older kids, because we take women from 22 to 60, you know, of all backgrounds, I've had CEOs, I've had artists, I've had pilots, I've had stay at home moms, I've had many, many kinds of women, but they have always bonded with the same desire to have an impact and to really challenge themselves and to put themselves out of their comfort zone. Not just to do like a charity Gala. But to actually train hard to climb a mountain or, you know, and really explain to their own family and support us because we do ask them to fundraise as well for our chosen charity, why they're doing this and why they should believe in them and make a donation in their name for this cause. So I do believe that it has been transformation for many of my teammates and I think it has given them courage to take on maybe new responsibilities at work, or maybe feel more confident as a mom, as a woman, as a wife, I would hope so. Many of them have come back on other expeditions and invited their friends or their sisters to join. And some of them have even asked to bring their older daughters. So it's really special.



From my research within kindness, one of the core values is connection. And it feels that there's this kind of huge connection that you've got, with regards to not only the money that you're raising for the organisations and for the women, but also bringing women together. And continuing those relationships is not networking. And it's not, doing one thing, but it seems to do a multitude of things in bringing people together, would that be about right?


Christine

I think so. And it's very action oriented. So for me, action is very important. You know, it's easy to talk about the things that we want to do and but until we actually do them and make an effort in the set time to do this and funds to invest in oneself or in a trip, it's not really a reality.

So for me, it's been a core tenet of the culture I've tried to build around this community because when we set out and plan for an expedition, we connect sometimes a year or nine months before. So it starts very much with recruiting the team and before that, there's other work that I do with my team to curate what it is exactly that the challenge is going to be about. I get quotes from different tour operators, check the safety, we get on calls and make sure that all the itineraries are thought out, which charity we will be supporting, which specific programme will be fun, I get the charities very much involved, I ask them to submit a plan on exactly what programme we will be raising X amount for and we want a report to show complete transparency, I want the teammates to meet them and talk to them.


So then the team recruitment starts, selecting the type the type of teammates I want, because it is by invitation in many ways, and even though I do take on women that I've never met before I do talk to them and interview them and try to understand their motivation to join. Because, you know, once they're in we get really close, we get to know each other so well. And then there is a whole preparation that goes into physical training, the equipment is very important. The fundraising, how do we approach the fundraising, we set up WhatsApp groups, we communicate on email, there's a whole plan around either sometimes planning an event locally, a fundraising event before the expedition, usually one after as well, who's going to take care of what. What is the filming equipment that anybody wants to bring, there's many different skill sets. So I also have them take a personality test, to better understand how they prefer to receive information. If there are changes in the temporary or in the weather, as there always are, which are the teammates that I need to keep in mind that need to be more prepared for those changes, there's a lot of personality type that bubbles to the surface when people are tired and uncomfortable. And when things don't go as planned as often they don't, either. So there's a lot of work that goes around that. And as you said, After that, of course, we stay in touch. We plan events, we edit films, we share pictures, we write articles, I encourage all my teammates to blog and reach out to any journalists, they tend to talk about what we've done, but why we've done it especially.....




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