International Helping Hands’ Simon Calder talks ‘freedom from overpopulation’

Written by By Kate Stevens, CNN

Spring is here, summer is coming and International Helping Hands’ annual red list will be back. I’ve got 10 questions for you, Simon Calder:

1. Your gut reaction to the red list?

I’ve got a gut reaction I think I’ll not discuss openly and I’m less than chuffed that I’ll have to keep it to myself.

2. What are you most looking forward to, or dreading, in 2018?

I’m very excited about all of the projects we’ve done in the past year. New high-rise apartments in Hong Kong, hotels built from scratch in India and in Indonesia and Korean apartments.

In one word, it’s momentum and it’s building. Last year we launched ‘Freedom from overpopulation’ and that’s just one but incredibly powerful issue.

Massive relief and change of perspective last year, and I’m really looking forward to see the progress we make.

Simon Calder is the founder of the International Helping Hands (IHH) charity which is holding its International Helping Hands’ 2018 red list event at Sky Tower, Sydney, Australia on Monday, January 29. Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

3. Are there any emerging conflicts in the region we should be paying more attention to?

I want to see a bigger push to get India back on track. Over the past few years people have forgotten the truly awful human rights abuses of the past, and India has moved on from that. I want to see a new coalition of governments pressuring India to play its part.

4. Where have you done the work that has had the most lasting impact?

It’d be hard to choose just one, but in the context of ‘freedom from overpopulation’ the one that is most personal for me is probably the time I spent in Swaziland.

There was an enormous sense of freedom and having the luxury of a free life. They are battling poverty all the time, and with remarkable resolve they have helped to get people up into the world and educated.

5. What was your favorite thing about 2018?

I was back on the road a lot more in 2018, and I’m dreading being away from the personal freedom of home again.

The most fun part of the year was Australia and my travels through Asia and connecting with our partners there. Lots of things were highlights — the beautiful beaches in Bali or Indonesia, the short festival in Laos which we worked with our South African partners and a fabulous meeting in Malaysia about the future of media.

6. What did you most take away from 2017?

The life I live — working alongside brilliant people for something I believe in.

7. What’s the biggest challenge facing the people of Fiji?

The most obvious challenge is land management: Fiji has big banks of undeveloped land and we think it’s the right time to have a new approach to land ownership so it can go from being an issue of poverty to being something everyone can enjoy.

8. What has changed in the organization this year?

A significant change has been our national hub in Singapore: it’s had a strong cultural connection to Fiji for over 20 years and given us a great relationship with the local community and population. The director of our Singapore hub is very passionate about being a bridge between Fiji and Singapore and we’re lucky to have him.

9. How do you balance life and work?

I find it really tough. I’m juggling doing two to three projects a day. I’m so up for new challenges and new people, so I love connecting with partners in South Africa and Australia and new Asian countries, particularly India, as I think it’s essential for the sustainability of IHH to be present in Asia.

10. Where are you going to be seeing a once-in-a-lifetime event?

I’m excited to see the Bali Airport Pop-Up Festival in June. It was a major boost for IHH last year and I hope it’ll be more than that this year.

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