Some of New Zealand's most driven and influential people will visit parts of the country sharing their inspirational stories this week during the annual Kea Inspire event, which begins in Auckland today.
The event heads to Wellington tomorrow and Christchurch on Wednesday. Kea, the Kiwi Expat Association, is made up of more than 500,000 members who are making waves around the business world.
This year's theme is philanthropy.
The event leads up to the World Class New Zealand Awards on Thursday.
Cam Calkoen has always been determined to beat the odds. He was born with cerebral palsy and told he wouldn't be able to talk or walk properly. Now he's 31, travelling the world as a motivational speaker, having represented New Zealand at 100m and 200m sprints. "The way I see life is that everyone has a choice to focus on; what I can't do or what I can do. And focusing on what I can do sort of took me down this experimental process of being an athlete and a full-time speaker," he says. Mr Calkoen grew up in Hawkes Bay, but his parents, Flip and Arlo, knew there would be more opportunity in Auckland so they moved. When he wanted to play sport, they encouraged him, "instead of wrapping me in cotton wool". He discovered as a teenager his love of running and that it was the perfect therapy for his cerebral palsy. He is now thriving on the opportunity to travel and inspire others. " No one's going to create your life for you. If you want to be something more than anyone could have imagined, you've got to be the one to do that."
For more information visit keanewzealand.com
Solving global food crises was in Yoseph Ayele's blood. He was born during the Ethiopian famine of the 80s and went on to witness other crises, often related to environmental damage and poor food distribution. As a child, he was always motivated to solve big problems and dreamt of living on a farm. "I saw food as a big linchpin for large global challenges, including health, water management, climate change, poverty and inequality, food security and energy." Mr Ayele, 27, left Ethiopia for Tanzania aged 13 with his parents, who were missionaries. His international education got him into Harvard University in the United States. After graduating, he moved to Silicon Valley to help grow Inflection, a tech company his friends founded after dropping out of university. In 2012 Inflection sold one of its digital products,
for $100 million.
He has since set up KiwiConnect, a team helping New Zealand become an "incubation nation" for big global problems - an innovation hub for solutions in AgTech, ecological stewardship and restoration, education and digital media.
Kiwis need to keep learning and collaborating on projects to ensure the country's progress, says Melissa Clark-Reynolds. She is a mother-of-three, a director, chief executive and founder of a multitude of companies, including PayGlobal, Intaz, and GMV Associates - which began out of her bedroom and grew into a business with 200 staff that was eventually sold to Southern Cross and became Fusion, New Zealand's largest private ACC insurer. She's now a director on the Radio New Zealand board, works with the Ministry for Primary Industries and created Mini Monos, an online virtual world for kids. The 50-year-old's success began when she was much younger, aged just 15, when she became the youngest woman to enter university. "There's a lot to be said for a girl's education," she said. She has spent the past 10 years mentoring technology companies to help them succeed. "A lot of them die. Globally, technology start-ups have a 96 per cent failure rate." Ms Clark-Reynolds said New Zealanders needed to start working together to help solve some of the country's biggest problems. "New Zealand isn't going to improve its standard of living if we're all trying to do it for ourselves. We have to collaborate."
Dr Swee Tan
He's already caused a stir in the medical world by the discoveries that have helped treat strawberry birthmarks. Now Wellington plastic surgeon and research scientist Dr Swee Tan has his eyes set on cancer. Dr Tan was one of 14 children born in a poor family living in a village in Malaysia. He dreamed of being a doctor. From his family's plantation, he saved money to attend college in Kuala Lumpur before qualifying to study at Melbourne University's medical school. After graduating, he moved to New Zealand. "I think a lot of people thought I was mad or a dreamer and that it wasn't going to happen, but it did happen. You have to follow your dreams." He aimed higher after becoming "fascinated" with strawberry birthmarks, a vascular tumour. He and colleagues discovered the origin of the tumour was in stem cells from the placenta that rapidly grow into a tumour in the newborn within two to three weeks of life. Dr Tan and his team's discovery of the body's hormone system that controls these stems cells forms that basis of an effective treatment that causes the birthmarks to disappear within months. "Cancer stem cells have been demonstrated in every cancer type, including blood cancer. We believe we are looking in the right place and that once we substantiate this with further work we predict that there will be a paradigm shift in cancer treatment." He hopes patients could be treated simply and inexpensively at home.