Maybe to start with, my bachelors are in Business and IT (2001), which led me to work for IBM and Bank Sarasin, as well as managing BarRouge for 2 years. I had a very comfortable lifestyle with all the toys and dependencies that come along when being a forerunner for the capitalistic system. This led to a burnout where my inner voice asked for change, drastic change (2008). Hence, I quit everything, started to sell my possessions (so much stuff…), and took off direction South America. I remember the moment of meditation at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, when I finally reconnected with the 4 elements of nature again. It was the key turning point in my life, as I promised mother nature to help her with anything that lies within my possibilities.
Overcoming the fear of an overly secure life and stepping towards unknown, insecure and potentially dangerous territories was very real. I convinced myself, that if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back to the bank. That became a funny anecdote by now, since if you once felt the wind of freedom blowing through your hair, you most certainly don’t want to go back where you came from!
I continued to travel for years, always returning to Switzerland when I was broke, just to work for a bit and then take off again. The existential fear was replaced with self confidence that no matter what may come in my life (or how broke I was), I will always somehow find a way to make it work and that I will not stop until a goal is reached. At the same time, I realized, that us Westerners are so privileged and hence traveling lacks a deeper meaning. That’s when I started to volunteer for a Marine Conservation NGO in Madagascar (2012), closely followed by my Master’s in Sustainability Natural Resource Management at the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica.
After that, I continued to volunteer for an NGO in the Philippines (2014) where I dedicated my life to coastal resources management, livelihood solutions for fisherfolks, and especially coral restoration. The false promises of the head of that organization made me last two years until I finally realized that there are probably more egos in conservation & science than in the financial world, ironically.
The next step was clear to me, I needed to take things into my own hands. I blindly trust myself that I will stand tall for my values, stick to my ethics and good morals and will remain incorruptible. Coralive.org was born with these values in mind in Basel on July 1st, 2016. Since then, I’ve been tirelessly working on initiating projects, raising funds, educating people, being present where necessary, etc. etc.
Last week, a milestone was reached with the release of our movie, documenting the work we do in the Seychelles. There are also quite a few projects in the pipeline which could be very interesting for the years to come.
I believe the next challenge will be to remain a NGO that does not become just another player in the field of profits for non-profits. I don’t want to have operational, admin and overhead costs blow up exponentially just because we are getting bigger. While getting more impact is important, it’s as important – or even more – to stick to the truth of the struggle we are in. I have a few ideas in store on how to approach this situation….
Well, this is it, like I said, no regrets on anything I did except maybe that I should have started a little bit earlier. But I guess the time is right when the time is right. 😊
Geneva, May 2020
(minimal edits, tom)