IMPACT series #4 Lucy Bruce

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  • By Lise Bonnet
IMPACT series #4 Lucy Bruce

LUCY BRUCE: AN INSPIRATIONAL SCHOOL TEACHER HARNESSING THE POWER OF USING BUSINESS AS A FORCE FOR GOOD

Lucy is a British social-entrepreneur, businesswoman & philanthropist. She lives between Dubai, London and New Delhi with her husband, Gaurav, and their three children and is the co-founder of both, Homegrown Nursery School Dubai and the non-profit organisation, Harmony House India in New Delhi. We recently sat down with Lucy, and heard first hand about her social enterprise formula for ecological, sustainable and practical schooling in Dubai and her non-profit day care centres for hundreds of children in need, who reside in the slums of New Delhi.

 

Lucy was born and raised in the industrial city of Peterbrough in the United Kingdom. Although both of her parents worked, Lucy and her brother enjoyed a wonderful childhood and were afforded as many enriching life experiences as her parents could afford.

 

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"I was always aware, even from a young age, that we were privileged compared to many of the children in our comprehensive school. Many lived on council estates and couldn’t go on school trips because their parents didn’t have the means to send them. I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of empathy and compassion towards my friends who did not have the luxuries that my parents could afford to give us."

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Lucy started getting involved with local charities at a young age and would be the first to volunteer if a sponsorship opportunity ever came up. She gravitated towards those who she felt needed help in some way. She recounted one memory from when she was about 10 years of age, going from door to door trying to raise money for Cancer Research after she had just found out that her friend’s mother had cancer and she felt the need to do something. Typically, as is the case with a lot of 10year old's, she was not quite sure about what she wanted to become when she grew up, but it slowly became clear that her life's calling would be to work with children and she began to aspire towards becoming a Paediatric Doctor. However, her last years at high school were to be a turbulent time for both Lucy and her brother, as her parents were going through a divorce, and it became harder for her to focus on her studies with the unsettling times at home. Her dream of becoming a doctor did not materialise so she decided to follow a new goal and become a primary school teacher.

 

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"I knew that it was a skill that would be of use where ever I was in the world and could open doors on a global level. I studied in London and once I had qualified I began to explore teaching overseas."

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She ended up making a bold move to Abu Dhabi at the age of 21. She knew nobody there and very little about the city but had familiarised herself with the local culture and people. She taught at an Abu Dhabi primary school for 3 years as well as assuming a management position based on her skill set as a leader. Work consumed Lucy, but when she did have spare time, she would volunteer at the Children’s Rehabilitation Centre and participate in volunteer work for the British Embassy.

 

At the tender age of 25 she decided to press pause on her teaching career and start a small branding agency called Insignia with Gaurav Sinha, who was to become her husband 4 years later. As she began to focus all her time and energy on building the business, she became less involved with working with children and moved further away from the path that she was ultimately meant to be on. Little did she know back then, that her teaching qualification would give her the opportunity to become deeply embedded in the world of education, and allow her to open their own children’s charity in New Delhi and nursery schools in Dubai.

Gaurav and Lucy worked together morning and night and soon began to form a very close and strong relationship. When Lucy first visited Gaurav’s hometown of New Delhi she was overwhelmed and knocked sideways by the poverty that was so clearly visible. She felt helpless. Lucy was the proverbial, western tourist, that was mobbed by unclothed and undernourished children and her vulnerability was detected by anyone within a 1km radius. 

 

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"I wanted to give on the spot but was quickly taught that handing out whatever cash we had, and being swarmed by desperate people, was not a permanent solution."

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They decided to identify some independent children’s charities in Delhi and start working closely with them so they could make a tangible difference {albeit to a few children’s lives in Delhi, at first}. They rallied friends for support, and together, began making substantial contributions to the NGO's. Sadly, they discovered that, the donations were being misused. They were heartbroken. Their only feeling was of despair and let down for the children they had met along the journey. It was then that they decided to take matters into their own hands and began working on a concept where they had full control over donations and who would benefit from them. 

 

They quickly came up with the concept for Harmony House, a day care centre in Delhi that would provide slum children aged between 6 months and 18 years with education, nutrition, social services, medical facilities, vocational training and most importantly, love and care. Harmony House India opened in 2009 with 12 children in a small building. Today, they take care of more than 500 children across 2 fully operational centres.

 

 

 

They reside in Dubai, which in many ways is a world removed from the intense poverty that they passionately strive to eradicate, in the slums of Delhi. Dubai has been kind to them both, providing them with the opportunity to follow their dreams and become successful social entrepreneurs in the process.

But with all of the success, they have continued to balance their personal success with the deep human impact that characterises them both, as servants to humanity and a greater GOOD. As their businesses grew and expanded they gained the financial means to be able make a positive impact in a country that was close to both of their hearts. Since meeting Gaurav, Lucy has developed a deep connection to India and always felt welcome and at home there, and because of Dubai’s close proximity to Delhi, they make frequent visits.

 

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“It works very well for us and we have been so fortunate to have the support of our friends, colleagues, organisations and absolute strangers in Dubai, without whom, Harmony House would not be possible.”

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Juggling her need for POSITIVE IMPACT with the necessity of funding, the social-entrepreneur in Lucy was in overdrive. Raising funds for Harmony House was a full-time job. One day she thought to herself how could she use business as a force for good? It was then she would revisit her teaching passion and reconnect with the journey that she had put on hold, when she was 25.  

She decided to start Home Grown Nursery with her business partner, Beverly Jatwani. Homegrown is a Purpose Beyond Profit organisation as their ethos and vision is one that allows them to have a positive impact on the local and global community. Home Grown is a childrens’ nursery which focuses on nurturing kids ability to give back and take care of the planet and all living things. At Home Grown, they pair every child with a child in Harmony House. Through the nursery fees, the families also pay for a partnered child in Delhi. This approach has worked very well for Homegrown and gained tremendous popularity as parents strive to educate their children to become responsible global citizens from a very early age. Putting purpose ahead of a profit-only focus is something which came natural to both Lucy and Beverly, both as mums and as business partners.

 

Harmony House has now been running for over 8 years and they have been able to measure the social impact that they have had on the New Delhi community. Their objective is to give every child the ability to generate a better future for themselves and their families, and to help them break away from the cycle of poverty that they have been born into. Harmony House monitors all of the children who leave, to ensure that they stay on track with their college work, job placement or training. Their success rate to date has been very encouraging with 97% of leavers being able to live independently while supporting their families. The nursery partnership has made a significant difference too. Since 2011 they have been able to open a second Harmony House centre, which increased the capacity by 100%. As far as the future goes, the vision has always been to be able to change as many lives as possible across the world. They plan to open more centres and more nurseries over the coming years.

 

Lucy is a stong-willed, passionate, humanitarian. She has not given up in the face of adversity and continued to stay true to the notion of being a global student of life. She has conquered fear, failure and fatigue and done so all with a smile on her face.  

 

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“There have been so many lessons along the way but the best piece of advice I was ever given was; talk less and do more. It is important to start taking steps towards your goals and even if you have to take a step back, know that you will continue to move forward. When you do something you love with good intentions, and offer a helping hand, you will always succeed in some shape or form." 

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There has been an explosion of social-entrepreneurs over the past 5 years across the globe as future leaders and visionaries reject the concept of capitalism and embrace the truth that the world’s problems are our own problems. More and more social enterprises are challenging the giant brands and offering products and services that also strive to maximize improvements in human and environmental wellbeing. With CSR now being implemented by many governments around the world, even those who have not participated in the past are being monitored to ensure that their brands and businesses are complying with sustainability and human rights regulations.

As our interview concluded we asked Lucy, who has become a master of her own craft, about our philosophy of using Luxury for GOOD™. She paused for a moment, before stating….

 

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“The physical cost to our planet when we purchase luxury goods has been swept under the table for far too long. I am so proud to be aligned and associated with Crafted Society and it now means that buying luxury goods will literally not cost the earth through over exaggerated prices as well as a completely transparent, modus operandi. When making luxury purchases it is important for me that there is honesty and a purpose beyond the obvious. I hope that many other luxury brands take on the manifesto that Crafted Society has pioneered through their commitment to use Luxury as a force for good.”

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There is so much more to be done and the belief is that this will come down to the influence of individuals rather than establishments. Lucy and Gaurav are by no means finished, but fiercely determined to be of human service. For this they both have our utmost respect and admiration.

 

If you would like to support Harmony House use our online code LUCYHH to pledge an additional 5% donation to her cause.

 

Learn more about both Harmony House via www.harmonyhouseindia.org and Homegrown via www.homegrownnursery.ae

 

Lucy Bruce was speaking to Lise Bonnet – co-founder & owner of Crafted Society™