She has been selected as an awardee from among nearly 17 000 alumni. Her career had started at Google, she had lived in London, and then she returned to Hungary as she felt she wanted to use her knowledge and experience for doing something useful here at home. Now, her main goal is to ensure that Bátor Tábor can provide light-hearted, happy moments and hours for as many seriously ill children as possible. Discussion with Erna Kindli about a meaningful life, the mental health of sick children, and acceptance.
In an earlier interview, you explained that you had left Google, to become the managing director of Bátor Tábor, which helps seriously ill children, for a quarter of your salary. Is this possible in today’s world, where nearly everything is about money and a reputable workplace?
Money and profit are not among the primary decision criteria in my life. In my family, every member was a healthcare worker or a teacher, and therefore, I was not well-to-do financially, but, in spite of that, I have never been motivated by money, and the dominant aspect for me has been to create social value. As the managing director of Bátor Tábor, my goal is to provide help in developing strategy and frameworks and to implement a useful and important mission. At Google, where I had a nicely developing career, I already received similar tasks, for example, the firm modernized schools in Africa, and children living there were provided with access to modern knowledge through this digital reform. I worked for the firm for nearly 6 years, I still consider it a superb organization, and I often talk to my former colleagues. I lived in London, where I felt good, but I started to help non-profit companies, collecting donations for them at birthday parties, and yet I felt that I wanted to “make use” of myself at home. I knew that, if I leave Google, they will recruit a well-educated person with excellent skills to replace me.
Did it turn out to be a good decision?
Here at home, first, I worked for Tresorit for two and a half years, and my purpose was to help that start-up company enter the world market. That goal was successfully achieved, and the company has just been acquired by the Swiss Post, not without reason. In addition, the company has increased their revenues significantly. It was an exciting task professionally, I had my first management position there. It was good to work with smart and talented young people. But then I left that company as well, because I still felt an urge that what I was doing was not useful enough. I decided to have a break for a few months – those who can afford that financially will find it worth doing so, as they can get further away from their former workplaces and think about what they want to do with their lives. I still felt that I had been “useless” for too long. I was also musing about going to Asia and work for an international non-profit organization as a professional volunteer, and I was even considering teaching English at an orphanage in the Philippines. Then a conversation with Péter Küllői, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bátor Tábor Foundation and one of Hungary’s greatest philanthropists, changed everything. It turned out that he had been looking for a manager for a long time, and he offered the position to me. At that time, all I knew about Bátor Tábor was that it was an ethical organization and what they do was professional and positive. I felt honoured to be invited.
What goals have you set for yourself?
I have been working here for six years. I have set it as a goal that the organisation should get to a higher level, increase its social impact and have the capacity to help as many children and their families as possible through therapeutic recreation. It is important, that Bátor Tábor is not only a camp, though this had “only” been the goal for long. Seriously ill children – by the way, perhaps few people know that 70-80 percent of children with cancer recover and grow up – very often also have mental symptoms, and the disease is such a trauma for them that a much higher proportion of them suffer from depression, commit suicide, or become addicted, when adults. You should not only cure the body but the soul as well, this is attempted by Bátor Tábor. That’s why we organise playful and fun therapeutic programs for them and their classmates in schools, we go to waiting rooms of outpatient centres and hold sessions for them there, we play games with them, because many things are available to provide therapeutic recreation for them. Our goal is to bring children out of mental vegetation, offering them opportunities for making decisions in games, since seriously ill children are not allowed to decide on anything – we want to give them some light-hearted hours.
Do you manage to do that?
Yes! I often go to programs, for example, we went back to a class in a school for the second time for a therapeutic program and when we entered, the children greeted us with cheers. If the values represented by our Foundation – such as empathy, community spirit, attention, inclusion and support – reach as many classes and schools as possible, a change may emerge at the level of society. For example, a child once said that he wished the whole world was like Bátor Tábor. That is why we try to reach as many places as possible with our programs, outside our camp. In addition to increasing the social impact, I also treat the financial sustainability of the Foundation as a priority. In addition to raising funds from donations, we also deliver programs to companies for fees, and such programs can, in line with our core competencies, develop communities, the mental well-being of employees and their relationships with each other.
Who was the person at Corvinus University that you learned the most from?
There were many, I cannot mention a single person only. But perhaps the communities at University meant the most to me: the College for Advanced Studies, which I was a member of (by the way, it was the EVK College, i.e. the University Entrepreneur College), and CEMS was also like that. CEMS opened up the world to me. Through CEMS’ professional and community programs, I was able to get involved in the world of international management, which opened up new perspectives for me. And, even more importantly, I made good friends with some of the Hungarian and foreign CEMS participants.
Are you happy about the award?
Yes, very much, especially because it draws attention to Bátor Tábor and non-profit organisations. It would be good if more people who work for some exciting company would devote 2-3 years to the non-profit sector, it would be to everyone’s advantage. Non-profit organizations need to be managed in a different way, so also managers can learn from that. It would be good if more people gave 2-3 years of their lives, knowledge and experience to the non-profit sector!
Author: Katalin Török