Our Shenzhener of the Month: Andrew Colquhoun of Captivating International

This is the second in our ongoing series of interviews with prolific Shenzheners each and every month. Last month featured one of China’s only (probably the first ever) foreigners with a book published in China, Jordan Dotson.

This month we have the pleasure of featuring Andrew Colquhoun, the CEO and Co-Founder of Captivating International, a Non-Profit in the fight against poverty all over China.

How long have you been in China, Andrew?

This is our 6th year in Shenzhen.

What brings you to Shenzhen?

Initially it was work. I was the Human Resource VP for an organization that made the Happy Meal toys for McDonald’s.  For several years I flew in and out of Asia from our base in Australia.  But both Julie and I had this growing desire to help the world somehow – our passion being for disadvantaged/desperate children.  So I went to resign to get started – had my resignation refused with the owner of the company asking me to move to China to set up and run a corporate charity for her.  We did this, however, within a year it was clear that the more desperate needs were in off-the-map locations of China – areas difficult to show corporate clients and employees.  So, I resigned successfully this time and my wife and I established Captivating as a stand-alone, independent organization.  The rest is history really.

What keeps you here?

Chinese food; head-washes; foot massages; the foreign community here which is amazing; and, a passion to never leave the kids we are helping that have captured our hearts.

Could you tell us a little bit about your work with Captivating?

Our motto is “bringing hope for a better tomorrow” and our focus is on working to help children and families trapped in poverty.  China is leading the world in poverty reduction, however, it’s also 20% of the world’s population.  There are still so many areas that we call gaps.  We look for established Chinese partners in remote off-the-map locations of China who are already doing good work and have a track record, and we partner with them to help them impact many many more children and families.  We work with the support of local governments and schools.

What are some of the challenges of running a successful charity organization in China?

Trust is the big one for us – by this I mean people having trust in Captivating.  We are foreign and sometimes we forget that.  We tend to rush in and get to the business part, forgetting that we are unknown and untested to a remote village.  So, ‘three cups of tea’ is a principle for us to remember (take your time and go at the pace of the village – it’s their problem and their program).  On the whole, we have found people amazing, schools incredibly open and teachers and local officials really wanting to help steer and help us do things right.  We’ve had some tough lessons but certainly finding things easier as the years tick by and our credibility and history grows.

When is your next event?

OCTOBER 22 in our next premier fund-raising event in Shenzhen.  Hosted again by the wonderful Futian Shangri-la, Shenzhen, we hope to have 500 guests support the work of the Seng Girls Vocational Training School and Home in Qinghai – a project that now directly supports 120 girls.  Lynn Velez is our Program Manager and already work has begun to make this a night to remember.

How can people get involved?

Many people ask about volunteer opportunities.  Because all of our projects are in remote areas, hands-on work is limited.  Our greatest need is for people willing to take responsibility for managing a project and fund-raising for it, or for people to help volunteer for local events like the October 22 event.  We keep thinking, if we had 50 people with a passion to make a difference in the world that personally took responsibility to raise funds from their own network, family, friends etc to make a project (in their name) happen, well…that’s would be awesome.  Captivating is set-up to make that happen, but we start with people willing to stand up and say, “count me in”.

Anything else that we should know?

Financially, our greatest need is always for child sponsors – people willing to support a child in one of our programs.  Sponsorship is typically US$40 a month and depending on the type of project, sometimes we require 2 sponsorships per child (the equivalent of US$80 a month).  All details can be found on our website www.captivating.org.  Today we have over 100 children needing sponsors.  Apart from that, the only other thing I want to say is a huge thank-you to our Shekou and Shenzhen community whose support is amazing.  Marcus Maher, Lynn Velez and her committee, and the many others who have made it possible for all of us to directly impact the lives of so many children.  You’re all awesome.  Thank you for all you do.

Thank you, Andrew, and everyone involved with Captivating. We at Shenzhen Standard are big fans of what you guys are doing and admire your passion.

“Count us in”

Read more about how to get involved here: http://www.shenzhen-standard.com/2011/06/24/captivating-international/

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