by Jan-Maurits (JM) Duparc | 04 Nov 2021
The Bloom Report
Mary Couzin interviews JM . . .
Congrats, JM, on being the TAGIE Hassenfeld Family Initiatives Humanitarian Award Honoree this year! Can you tell us about the project you were involved in to help homeless people?
Thank you so much Mary. I’m still overwhelmed and it’s still hard to believe. I really want to thank you, your whole organization and of course Alan and the Hassenfeld Family Initiatives for this huge honour.
But to answer your question, The Amsterdam Project was a documentary about 5 homeless people. Each had a different background story and a different reason for being on the street. The idea was to ask if we could interview them and follow them for a couple of days to raise awareness for the homeless. After a couple of days, we offered them $10.000 and a book with phone numbers with all different kinds of coaches they could reach out to. They were allowed to do whatever they wanted with the money and could call the coaches if they pleased. Luckily all of them decided to use the money to try and get their lives back on track. This, of course, was a very bumpy roller coaster ride with a lot of ups and downs.
When the host of the documentary gave them the money, they all seemed to get their sense of pride back and they felt responsible for the money. One of them even offered to give the money back when, after several months, he said he couldn’t solve the problems he had to get off the street. He hadn’t spent a dime! In the end, all of them made it off them made it off the streets.
What inspired you?
I read an article about the homeless and how much money they cost society. I wasn’t shocked they cost society money, but I was shocked by the fact that practically no homeless were making it off the street. I couldn’t get this off my mind. When I run into a problem I can’t solve, I often ask myself “how would a kid solve this problem?”. In this case it was an easy answer, if so much money is spent on the homeless and it’s not helping, a kid would say “why not just give them the money?” Luckily, I knew a famous tv host and I pitched the idea to him about a tv documentary to raise awareness. He was on board right away! The rest, as they say, is history.
Do you have plans to do future similar initiatives?
I hope so, I love the toy industry and will never leave, but I love being able to use the creativity and inspiration from our industry for new initiatives.
What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?
There are so many reasons! First of all, the people, I’ve said it before but being able to talk to people like Michael Kohner, Gary Swisher and Adi Golad is amazing. I truly consider them legends and I’m always surprised how much time they’ll make for you.
But also, the friends I’ve made along the way, the creativity you find in our industry, all the cool inventors and of course I still get a kick when we release a successful game. We’re a small company from a small country, so seeing our games in toy stores around the world is still wicked!
What was the last time you did something for the first time?
I do a lot of my brainstorming in the ocean; I truly love the water. I go swimming with my dog year-round (42°F in the winter) and I’ve always wanted to brainstorm while surfing but I’ve never surfed, it was one of those bucket list things.
So, during the first lockdown I took a surfing lesson and I’ve been hooked ever since. The first game concept I thought of while surfing will be launched next year.
What was your favorite game as a child?
Fireball Island! It looked so different from any game I had ever seen. I used it as a play set for my GI Joe and Lego as well. It felt like that game brought your imagination to life.
There was also a floor game called Torpedo Run that was so unique, I played that for hours on end.
What was your life like growing up?
I grew up in loving family with a brother and a sister, we were always playing sports and games together. My dad’s an art historian, and he could tell the most incredible stories about paintings and history. He was s passionate about his job and although he worked hard, he loved it so much. He and my mom encouraged me to find my passion and go for it. I’m still very grateful they did, and he was a great example of what you can achieve if you follow your dreams.
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