Former model Topaz Page-Green was born with a big heart and an open mind. While she was growing up in South Africa, her brother decided to become vegetarian on moral grounds, bringing to her consciousness the idea that one has as much of a choice not to participate in a practice as one does to join a good cause. Later in life, modeling took her far from home. Upon returning, she had an eye-opening experience during a visit to a local township school, where she was exposed to the stark reality of childhood hunger for the first time.
Convinced she must help, Page-Green founded, The Lunchbox Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing daily meals for poor and at-risk students in South African township high schools. In 2005, when the service launched, Page-Green was able to feed 100 children. Now, her charity reaches over 180,000 kids and she is gearing up to launch a new app, Feedie, which will enable users to turn pictures of their own meals into food for those in need.
Here, Topaz Page-Green shares how she stays personally centered and posits that it doesn’t take a genius to be kind:
Live The Process: How have you come to accumulate your knowledge about wellness, and at what age did you begin that journey and why?
Topaz Page-Green: I remember my older brother becoming vegetarian when I was a child in South Africa, when such things were unheard of. The sentiment sparked a blade of light in me, and I was forbidden to follow his path. The idea of choosing to omit something out of principal struck me deeply.
At a certain point in my teenage years, I became driven to uncover as much alternative information as I could get my hands on. I was after everything we were not taught in school that related to becoming a more evolved human being in a philosophical or spiritual sense. Not all of it was pretty. I certainly experienced a coming-of-age fraught with proverbial bruising, but, parallel to that, I caught glimpses into deeper aspects of the self. Even now, to ask myself who I am and why I am here feels as primal and urgent as a need for food. I think the accumulation of knowledge grows, ebbs, flows and dissolves again from that same place.
LTP: Is there an unhealthy food or unproductive habit that you work to resist?
TP: There are thousands! I don't really try to resist anything anymore. It seems to work better for me not to.
LTP: Does your work affect how you live a wellness-driven lifestyle?
TP: I don't think so. I think my wellness-driven lifestyle affects the productivity of my work.
LTP: When you feel that your energy is low and you are in need of a “tune-up," where is your favorite place to go?
TP: My favorite thing to do is retreat into my apartment and cocoon. I'm astrologically a Cancer, so I am a natural homebody. The stillness and sanctity of my own space is the best place to restore depleted reserves. Twenty-four hours with a warm bath and no calls does the trick. I don't need to go anywhere. But, if I do go away, I like it to be far-flung.
LTP: What tips would you offer people who aspire to affect others’ lives in a positive way?
TP: Be kind. It's not rocket science. Take two seconds to actually connect—even through something as simple as eye contact—with the person behind the counter. Be patient enough to take a tiny moment to care. That moment will change his or her day, and will likely make that person affect someone else similarly.
LTP: How did the ideas for The Lunchbox Fund and, more recently, your new app, Feedie, come about?
TP: The Lunchbox Fund was founded as a response to the childhood hunger issue in South Africa, where I'm from. On a visit to a typical township school, I was confronted with the visceral need and was presented with what I felt was a choice: 65% of all children live in poverty. That’s over twelve million children without regular, or even any, access to food. The Lunchbox Fund provides a behavioral incentive for children to attend school by placing a guaranteed meal there. It is smart, simple and costs us as little as 25 cents to feed a child for a day.
We know what we do works, but the million dollar question is: how do we scale the work we do up to reach the four million children who are not provided for by any government efforts? Feedie is the answer to that question.
We needed to create something simple and desirable that we could build on. Feedie takes current technology and the voracious appetite people have for taking and sharing photographs of their meals and turns that pictures into real meals for the children who need them most. To be a part of Feedie is to join a movement that improves on something that already exists and hopefully inspires everyone involved.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
TP: Being relaxed with someone you love—just being there doing nothing, not wanting or needing to be anywhere else.
When I see the little people we feed eating and with crumbs on their faces, I fill with simple, absolute and immeasurable happiness.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
TP: We are living the process no matter what we do. Sometimes the knife is sharp, other times blunt. Sometimes we're fighting, other times we're in tune. I wake up and I'm still breathing, so the process lives through me. Sometimes life comes at you hard. To “Live The Process” means to accept yourself.