LU Alumni around the world: Halifax and Freetown

This week in the LU Alumni world series we meet Matthew Moore, LUSEM alumnus class of 2010 and 2011 who shares his time between the Canadian real estate market and volunteer projects in Sierra Leone.

You graduated with two Master’s degrees from Lund University, within Accounting and Corporate Finance, class of 2010 and 2011. Can you tell us more about with you’re working with today?

I am currently working as partner in several real estate businesses with my family in Atlantic Canada: Oceanstone Seaside Resort, Premiere Self Storage, Moore Executive Suites/ Student Living and two vacation villas in Barbados. My focus is on marketing, strategy and business development.

What does a regular day look like for you to today?

My mornings start with a 5-minute meditation and a Crossfit workout. Then I usually visit the office, work on business development, marketing or strategy tasks, and consult with contractors on development projects. I skype once or twice a day with managers at Cragmere Villas Barbados vacation rental properties regarding new reservations and operational issues. My schedule is pretty flexible which allows me to travel and work remotely which is great!

Has your Lund University education been beneficial in your work?

In addition to the theoretical tools which provided a much deeper understanding of business, my experience at Lund University shed light on unique ways to approach the traditional. As a result, the businesses I’m in tend to operate a little differently. We’ve changed up traditional business models by being innovative, improving customer experiences and benchmarking with best practices and with similar firms in different countries. “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed” is a good analogy. For example, one innovative idea I acquired from a Swedish real estate company while studying at Lund University was architectural layout drawings and virtual tours. We’ve added these tools to our real estate listings which have helped customers visualize the apartments they are looking to rent.

While living in Sparta residence at Lund University, I was also inspired by the innovative storage solutions for small living spaces. Once back in Canada, I began to buy and renovate student rental and executive suites with similar storage and design ideas such as floor to ceiling storage space, hygienic wet bathrooms and extra shelf space. The feedback from tenants has been received incredibly positive. Lund University has also provided me with wider, international network which has provided me support when I need business advice.

Lund University is like a second home to me, which is a very liberating and empowering feeling. As a result, my experience in Lund has motivated me to travel more and experience new cultures.

You recently returned from a trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where you have been volunteering at a school. Can you tell us more about your experiences from Sierra Leone?

I spent eight days with the executive director of Help2overcome.org Ben John helping to build a toilet facility at an all-girls primary and secondary school with over 700 students. It was an eye-opening experience.
Upon arriving at the Freetown airport, I was a bit surprised that the electricity went completely off several times while we were waiting for our bags. Apparently, it’s pretty common- about 80-90% of the 2 million people in Freetown live without electricity.

In my first few days in Freetown, I learned more about the Sierra Leone’s tragic history. Just 10 years ago, the country was in civil war where tens of thousands then experienced the Ebola crisis where thousands of people lost their lives.

The living conditions in Freetown were extremely poor. During my visit, I saw people bathing in street gutters polluted with feces and many others living in garbage dumps infested with rodents. Sierra Leone is reported to have one of the highest rates of youth deaths (between the ages of 18-35) in the world as a result of malaria, insanitary living conditions and other diseases. Most people lived on less than $1 euro per day, and were deprived of many of things we take for granted in the developed world: running water, toilets and electricity.

Human rights were also very limited. School teachers whipped the children or forced them to kneel on cement if they misbehaved. At several of the schools, we noticed there were cistern systems which were supplied by non-for-profit organizations but they had all broke and the schools did not have any funds to repair.

Our project at FAWE primary secondary school consisted of building a toilet facility using sustainable toilets imported from the Swedish manufacturer EcoLoo. It was quite difficult to deal with suppliers and contractors since corruption was so widespread there, but we managed to complete the project on budget.

The children were so sweet, affectionate and grateful. It was heart-warming to make a difference in their lives. The kids also taught me the importance of resilience. Despite being malnourished, living amongst garbage and rats or having the constant reminder of human brutality as the result of an amputated limb, they were all smiles. Perfect examples of “Acceptance. Change. Precedes Survival.”

My experience in Sierra Leone also made me more grateful. I realize we tend to take a lot for granted; especially basic living necessities such as running water and toilets.

What made you decide to travel and work on a volunteer basis? Do you have plans for future volunteer projects?

I wanted to get a first-hand experience of poverty and learn about the challenges and the way of life of people in undeveloped countries. I also wanted to make a difference. It felt very heart-warming to make a difference in the quality of life of these children.

I plan to return to Freetown on May 21, 2019 for another 8 days to help build the next toilet facility with help2overcome.org at another all-girls school in Freetown.

What’s your best advice to someone wanting to make a difference by traveling abroad for a volunteer project?

Volunteer with a reputable organization which can help guide you through the steps required to prepare for travelling abroad. Connect with others who have previously worked for the volunteer organization and ask them for their advice. The organization help2overcome.org that I am involved with is looking for ambassadors and volunteers for future projects planned in Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

I would be happy to provide more information to anyone in the Lund University Community- feel free to connect with me on www.linkedin.com/in/matthewmoorecanada or email me at info@mooresuites.com– I’d be more then happy to answer any questions.

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