A Chance In Life is so grateful for our partnership with the Caritas Pro Vitae Gradu Charitable Trust, whose support has been instrumental in strengthening our COVID-19 hunger relief efforts. Trustee Ariane Slinger provided us with more insight into the Trust's work and her own role as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Could you tell us more about the Trust, its work and yourself?
The Caritas Pro Vitae Gradu Charitable Trust was established as a charity in 2011 and duly registered with the New Zealand Charities Commission. Our activities are operated from Geneva, Switzerland and Auckland, New Zealand, where the two trustees are located, while our projects are run world-wide. We presently support over 25 projects going from Santiago de Chile and Venezuela to Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Lebanon, Syria and Bethlehem. We are also active in Europe.
Our mission is to support serious Roman Catholic projects that instigate change, with an important social and humanitarian impact, promoting the Roman Catholic values and messages of compassion, respect, tolerance and commitment to the most vulnerable people in society. Our website provides more detailed information: https://www.caritasprovitaegradu.ch/
You manage a successful business in Switzerland; could you describe what you do?
For the past eleven years, I have been the main shareholder and CEO of ACE International SA, one of the larger independent trust companies in Geneva. This means that our clients have a “Trust” relationship with us. We have 25 staff members in our Geneva office, and two in our New Zealand offices. I am so happy to be independent since I became the owner of my own business!
With a team of multi-disciplinary professionals (lawyers, accountants, etc.) we support and serve the needs of an international clientele of global families and entrepreneurs providing any legal, tax, administrative and accounting services they require, focusing on investments, planning, reporting, family education and governance. Part of our work consists of controlling and protecting family assets, to solve succession planning issues, conflicts in the families and with business partners. We protect vulnerable persons needing assistance and we help our clients with elaborating business strategies and to stay respectful of the tax and legal rules around the world that evolve so quickly! Finally, we also assist clients with setting up and overseeing their charities. This is the part of my job that I enjoy the most! Having your Passion as a job is the ultimate dream for everyone, is not it?
I understand that for children this job description can be very difficult to understand since it is not a very usual profession and it is extremely diverse. We never have a boring day, I must say. Even my own mum does not understand all the things I am doing every day!
Our website gives more detailed explanations about us: www.ace-international.ch
As a successful entrepreneur, what advice would you give to young people, particularly girls, in our programs?
The fact that I am a woman has never been a real obstacle for me, since I always found my own ways to get where I wanted to be, very often by simply asking! Life has been very tough at times, I had to work very hard and not everyone I met was nice to me, but never forget that bad experiences are quickly forgotten when you finally reach your goal. In life you will meet a lot of very nice people but also very bad people; the odds are 50/50. Decide to be on the right path and do not let bad people influence you and destroy your dreams.
I can give one practical example: At the age of 29, when working as a lawyer in an international group, I heard that our office in Luxembourg was being closed since no one wanted to take on the challenge of managing it. I immediately went to see my boss and asked him if I could go there and run the Luxembourg office. Everybody was astonished, because I was married with a two-year-old daughter. They had considered me, but not asked me since they thought I would have refused the position. So off I went three months later and I became a very young Managing Director of an almost empty office in Luxembourg. I quickly hired a part-time assistant and got a small apartment, so as to limit my expenses. Two years later, I found out from one of my colleagues in the financial department that I was underpaid for the work I was doing and living in a much smaller apartment than any of my colleagues, who all lived in beautiful houses paid for by the company. Looking at my great results (a lot of new clients, good profits and a team of 15) my colleague believed it was unfair that I did not get the same treatment as my colleagues in similar positions. As a consequence I organized a meeting with my boss, who agreed to raise my salary by 25%, gave me a bonus and the promise that I could quickly switch to a nicer home. See… I just had to ask for it! Since that day everyone has been very careful around me.
Our collaboration on COVID-19 will save thousands of lives. But it’s not the first time the Trust and ACIL have worked together in support of vulnerable children … Can you share a bit about the origin of our partnership in your own words? Are there any aspects of that collaboration that are especially interesting or meaningful to you?
Actually our collaboration started with a serendipitous meeting! When we were organizing our support for the Catholic University of Bethlehem (a project supported by the Pope himself) by financing the necessary furniture and equipment for their new Faculty of Nursing that was being constructed, one of the people in charge whom we met in Geneva spoke to us about A Chance in Life and its President, Gabriele Delmonaco, and asked me if we could consider a collaboration with you.
During my meeting with her I had expressed my concerns about the difficulties we had in finding reliable and meaningful catholic projects to support. Following this discussion, she decided to put me in contact with her good friends! I am still very grateful to her for this fantastic introduction.
As a consequence Gabriele came over to see us in Geneva, introduced A Chance In Life to us and told us about your impressive history and mission. We agreed that we would support the construction of two schools in the Boys' & Girls' Town in Gumuz, Ethiopia which would serve 400 children and also provide immediate medical assistance for children living in the nearby villages of Banush and Dosh.
Our partnership with A Chance in Life is really very meaningful to us since our mission is to support projects that instigate change in society and that have a strong social and humanitarian impact, so… What more beautiful and meaningful project could we find than helping hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world get support and an education, leading to a real chance in life? Also, the history of your foundation is such a wonderful and impressive story. We are so happy to have discovered you!
We learned that you and your husband have a passion for vinyl records. How did that start, and what would you say to our many children who are interested in music?
Actually, our passion for vinyl records started after my father passed away four years ago. My father was the founder of a vinyl records factory in the Netherlands in the late 1950s and a real jazz fan, and unhappily he had to sell it in the 1970s for health reasons. When he passed away at the age of 92, I created a blog in order to share his extraordinary story in the world of vinyl, so that no one would forget him and also to please my mum. Here is the link: www.ariane-slinger.com.
When my husband saw how sad I was after the loss of my father, he bought me a record player and suggested we start our own vinyl collection. And since then playing records on a daily basis has become a new way of living for us that brings us a lot of joy!
My message to children who like music: Personally, I would have loved to work in the music industry, but unfortunately I never played any instruments seriously and I am a really bad singer. Music brings so much joy and happiness to the people around you and to yourself so, if you have a talent, you should really go for it, be it professionally or not.
Aristotle said, “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.” We are grateful you chose our organization. As a Trustee, how do you make the difficult decisions that come with such an important responsibility of deciding where to send funding?
Actually it is pretty simple - we listen to our heart! Of course, first we start by collecting a lot of information and documents, references and pictures to make sure that we are working with a reliable catholic organization and that the project corresponds to our mission. But then the moment of choice kicks in, and we need to decide if we really wish to support the project or not, since we have limited financial resources.
The main trigger of a positive decision is when we can see and feel how much passion the decision makers have and how committed they are in their mission and their love for the most vulnerable. Without that certitude we do not donate. We believe that only with Passion, Commitment and Love the miracle of change can happen!
Do you have any advice for would-be philanthropists – young people who are looking to start to support charitable causes?
Choose a project that is close to your heart and interests. And go for people and organizations who are authentic, who have a genuine interest in what they do, a real passion in life, a mission that drives them and who try to change the world in a better place, with their own possibilities, be it big or small.
You do not need to donate important amounts of money to make a big difference. What is most important is to wholeheartedly give to a project you strongly believe in.
Thank you again to Mrs. Slinger for your time and insight! And on behalf of our children around the world, thank you for the Caritas Pro Vitae Gradu Charitable Trust for their generous support of our COVID-19 relief efforts.