Magda Nieto

Designing and living Experiences

“Forget Coffee and Cocaine, Colombia Has a New Export – Happiness” September 26, 2012

This is an article written by the ABC News, wrote last week about what Colombia have to offer now. Is The Happy Post Project, which is very emotive and totally true, Colombia is full of happiness and we love to share it!

“I want Colombia to be known as an exporter of happiness…rather than as an exporter of drugs,” Mario Chamorro, the director of the Make it Happy Foundation, told me in a recent phone conversation. That might sound improbable, but then again, so is the story of Mario Chamorro.

Born in rural Pasto, Colombia (next to an active volcano, he likes to add), Mario left home to study in Bogotá and eventually ended up working on social initiatives for the government of President Alvaro Uribe. While many considered him to have “made it,” Mario had bigger dreams and soon left for the U.S. He learned English while parking cars and waiting tables in Boston and was eventually accepted to the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

We first met when he was coordinating social events as president of the student association. It was apparent then that he had a gift for bringing people together and making them happy, but it would take a few years for him to dedicate himself to the effort full-time.

After getting his master’s degree, Mario worked in the energy, finance and health industries. He was good at everything he did but nothing seemed to fully click. During the financial crisis, he lost his job, broke up with his girlfriend and, last year, was diagnosed with cancer. Combined, these events pushed him to ponder the single question that led to his big idea. What makes you happy?

One of Mario’s first projects involved asking people to draw or write something that made them happy on a post-it note. “The Happy Post Project” started as a fun way to meet people at a bar but soon spread to the streets and art galleries of Boston and eventually to Tokyo, Times Square and TED conferences. Mario says he quickly learned that “one, happiness is contagious; two, happiness empowers people; and three, happiness creates social change.”

He was on to something. In January, he received funding and office space from a sponsor so that he could expand his ideas. Eight months later, he was invited to Colombia to present the Happy Post Project to communities impacted by the civil conflict between the leftist FARC rebels and government forces.

The reaction surprised him. Inspired by all the messages of happiness collected by the Happy Post team, the mayor of Cali signed a “happiness pact” officially committing the city to measure and monitor the happiness of its citizens. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos mentioned Mario’s work in a speech and invited him for a visit. President Santos’ post-it note read: “a more peaceful and just Colombia.”

“It was clearly a special moment because we were moving from awareness to concrete actions that will spark social change,” said Mario, who is now cancer-free.

Like any good innovator, Mario is building on his early success to develop other initiatives. He recently created the Make it Happy Foundation, a non-profit organization whose goal is to spark a social movement to spread happiness. The foundation is creating a “happiness lab” to promote the study of happiness and support a network of social innovators. A consulting operation designed to help governments and companies learn more about what makes people happy is also in the works.

Mario continues to dream big. He wants to use happiness as a resource to promote the peace process in Colombia and beyond.

“If our project works in Colombia we can easily replicate that in countries such as Uganda, Palestine or Afghanistan,” he says.

In a way, Mario is already Colombia’s leading happiness export. He started out in Pasto as a raw material before moving on and adding value in Bogota, Boston and New York. As he moves up the value chain, the happiness he creates is inspiring people in Colombia and throughout the world.

By Stephen Keppel

You can read the article here in the ABC News´website: Link

 

London 2012 Olympics through the eyes of a Colombian September 7, 2012

An article that I wrote about my experience of London 2012, and the Olympics was published thanks to Kim Masters and her blog Dream on Masters, who was invited by Blogs Metro, to write about the Olympics.

 

Here it is what I wrote:

I first came to England five years ago, when I decided that I wanted to be an Event Manager. I found a Masters on the Internet, signed for it and was accepted. Since day one of that Masters we had conversations and lectures about how London won the pitch for 2012.

It is amazing that an event that lasts just 20 days is able to change lots of people lives and bring together a whole world.

Just a year before that, I realized what I wanted to do as my career goal, my big dream. I want to bring cultural events to my people of Colombia. BIG events can change the perception of people and bring development to a specific place. And in Colombia we need to change the perception of people about how cool it is to go there, and attract development to get us away from being a third world country. My big dream is to bring the Olympics to Colombia in 20 years.

So, I came this year to be a part of London 2012 and take that back with me to Colombia.

It has been incredible to see everything from the signage on the streets directing people to the venues and the Tube, to the amazing volunteers smiling all the time helping people and communicating what is going on. I have watched the Opening Ceremony, but it will take me another blog just to write about how much I enjoyed that. I have been all around London to watch the events (I love the idea that London has used the existing venues for some sports, and also to make people go all around the Capital. What better way of showing the city to tourists.)

The gymnastics and synchronized swimming are the first two sports I will always remember watching in London 2012.

It has been great to see the British people being such proud hosts of the Games, and also to witness the support they give to their players.  I have so enjoyed all the people around, wearing their flag’s colours and supporting their countries. My favourites have been the Dutch wearing bright orange.

From a logistics point of view, I love the idea of portable structures and that only the stadiums will stay there forever.

To be honest, London is not nearly as crazy as I thought it was going to be.

I am very proud of my country, knowing that even though we are not yet brilliant at getting sports medals, we have managed to get three silvers and two bronze.

It has been great being able to experience London 2012 live and to be able to see how London is leaving an Olympic legacy through sport and community and nationwide participation. It is amazing that an event that lasts just 20 days is able to change lots of people lives and bring together a whole world. And it gives me goose bumps just to think about it.

 

And here is the link so you can read it from Metro Blog.

Love the experience of being able to write something about the Olympics, and more that it was published.