Hello! Today we are meeting with Rose, the Co-Founder of B人BEL, an organization dedicated to creating a more equal and inclusive society. She is telling us more about her vision and how they are using education, events or arts to (re)humanize people and the way we connect to each other.
Can you introduce us B人BEL? Where does the name come from?
B人BEL is an organization which focuses on creating a more equal and inclusive society. We believe this goal can be achieved through changing the way people see themselves and each other. If you consciously realize that every person is a person with their own stories, lives, thoughts, experiences, and ideas, you will feel more connected to them, and are less likely to dehumanize them.
We stimulate this (re)humanization in different ways. We offer education programs in migrant schools and international schools focused on empowerment and inclusion; we organize events to bring people together and discuss issues; and we give visibility to different people and their lives through our website and social media accounts.
The name B人BEL comes from the story “Tower of Babel” where people try to build a tower together to reach heaven, but the tower falls because the people can’t communicate in the same language. We bring people from different backgrounds, who speak different languages, together to build something stronger than a tower. Our website is called Pyramid of Babel, because pyramids don’t fall. As our organization focuses on people, we use the Chinese character 人 instead of an A when we write B人BEL.
What’s your personal background and how and why did you decide to start this adventure?
I studied philosophy in Amsterdam and Shanghai; in Shanghai, I also founded a cultural magazine and I worked for an education company. While finishing my master’s degree I met Maria. She had been involved with different NGOs in the past, and she had the idea of organizing a festival focused on people. We developed this idea and decided that it would be good to have a WeChat account in order to write articles and share ideas related to the event. We organized the first B人BEL event with a group of friends and volunteers, and co-organized by Upbeing, last December. From then, after months of discussing, thinking, reading, and exploring, we developed the concept to what it is today.
We have always had the support of friends and people who believed in us, and now we have a team of volunteers who help us on a weekly basis. Most of the people who got involved actually contacted us, we have never actively looked for new team members.
Can you tell us a bit more about the events you organize? What was CRITICA about?
We organize events regularly which allows people to explore themselves in different ways. For instance, we did a workshop with Shaving in the Dark which allowed people to overcome an awkward experience by sharing it and drawing a comic about it. Our events always include discussions and are often related to the arts as well.
Our biggest event so far was CRITICA festival, which happened in July this year. During four days we organized master classes, discussions, film screenings, an exhibition, and an auction. The main goal of CRITICA was to inspire artists to use their work for a social goal, and to make a more general audience aware of the impact that art can have on people’s lives. I really believe that art can change our society, and I think a festival like CRITICA is an entertaining and attractive way to explore this idea.
What are the different education programs of B人BEL? What impact do you expect to have with those?
At the moment we have two different education programs. We do weekly sessions on migrant schools that focus on empowerment, different ways of self-expression, and building trust. We know many of those children are in a difficult situation, and through this program, we hope we can empower them to be able to take control of their own lives when they grow up. We are also starting our Inclusion Program in a few international schools. This program is focused on bringing different realities to the students. It is a dynamic program in which the students learn sign language, connect to the deaf community, and create their own art-related project to find creative solutions for problems which people from the deaf community face.
What is the biggest accomplishment of B人BEL?
Organizing CRITICA festival for me has been the hardest part of B人BEL so far and therefore I’m proud we were able to make it happen. But I think the biggest accomplishment has been the way we have persisted and grown since the first event in December. We have managed to publish good content almost every week, we have organized events regularly and gathered a crowd of people around us who are present, involved, support us, and really believe in what we do. And now we are implementing our education programs in a few schools, which for me is a really important step to securing a more inclusive future, and I believe this is where our organization will grow a lot in the future too. This makes me feel really proud.
What’s the biggest challenge you went through since you have started?
I think every organization or start up faces financial difficulties in the beginning, but somehow we have always managed to balance the costs and incomes of B人BEL . But the biggest challenge, I think, is more personal. Leading an organization requires a lot of different skills, from computer knowledge to being able to communicate well with others, from understanding legal processes to finding a balance between work and time off. Because our organization does a lot of different things, we constantly need to learn new skills to develop our ideas. I need to grow a lot, personally, which was and still is the biggest challenge. But despite or because of being a challenge, it is also enjoyable and the most rewarding part.
If you could wish for one thing that could help you have a greater impact tomorrow, what would it be?
What we try to do is change people’s mindset, in order to maximize our impact in creating a more inclusive society. I think education itself should change, instead of focusing on learning facts, the curriculum should focus on the development of individuals. Instead of having B人BEL education as an extra-curricular option, it should be the main focus of the curriculum. This would completely change the way people see each other, interact, and consequently will completely change our societies.
Which person or which project has been or is a great source of inspiration in your job or in your life?
People who have inspired me are mostly people who do something. People who believe they can change something, and do anything in their power to make this change become reality. People who persist and don’t give up.
Ever since meeting Maria, she inspired me a lot. She is very creative, has a good vision and is very proactive in pursuing her dreams. She inspires me to try different things, and helps me find the confidence I need to continue.
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