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April 14, 2010

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Model citizen quotes Gandhi

ROBERT Hartmann says he has always been inspired by Mahatma Gandi's words: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Hartmann put those words into action when he left his home in Switzerland in 2005 to explore the world. He ended up in Shanghai where he has studied, worked and lived ever since.

Last September, the 24-year-old entrepreneur was honored as a Model Citizen from the Changning District Foreigner's Community. He also recently was awarded the Changning District Foreigners Volunteer.

His Model Citizen certificate reads: "Mr Hartmann has harmoniously integrated into the community. He won high praise from neighbors with positive behavior such as caring for the environment and helping others. He is young, handsome and speaks fluent Chinese, becoming a member of the new generation of this international metropolis."

His good deeds include charitable work for the BEAN organization of expats in Shanghai, helping in the Sichuan earthquake relief efforts in 2008, caring for stray animals, environmental protection and working in a project supplying prosthetic limbs in Anhui Province, among others.

Hartmann holds a degree in fashion marketing and management in a Shanghai-Singapore-UK program. He is working on design marketing for a restaurant to be opened in Hebei Province.

On arriving in Shanghai, Hartmann studied at Fudan University and became fluent in Chinese, which enables him to communicate and integrate with the community.

"These days when people tell me I speak good Chinese, they sometimes ask if I grew up here. In some ways this is true," he says.

Hartmann is probably best known in the community for helping one Chinese man, Yu Guanghui. Despite an occupational accident in 1988 which left him disabled, Yu has remained positive and hardworking, running a bicycle repair shop in order to make a living and support his family.

Hartmann was heartened by the man's courage and helped raise money to buy the man a prosthetic arm last year.

"Living in China brought me the chance to make a big difference in the life of at least one disabled man," Hartmann says.

The Model Citizen award is given to residents who have made important social and cultural contributions to Shanghai.

He has also been working hard for the expat-run charity BEAN and encourages other like-minded expats to spare the time to get involved.

"If you party all the time it gets meaningless. After a while it seems very empty," says Hartmann. "Charity is a great way to get back in balance. You meet really nice people while doing something meaningful for somebody else."

Encouraged by both Gandhi and his own grandfather who founded a famous charity in Switzerland, Hartmann continues to be a much-loved and relied upon asset to his community and friends in Shanghai.

Robert Hartmann

Nationality: Swiss

Age: 24

Profession: Entrepreneur, designer


Self-description: Energetic, adventurous and open-hearted.

Favorite place: My home. I have done extensive redecoration and renovation, which would not be possible in many other countries. My landlord split the cost of installing double-pane windows. My neighbors are friendly older people and we help each other.

Strangest sight: I used to think of many things as very strange, but by now they have become part of my daily life.

Motto for life: Be a better man that you were yesterday. If you do that, you are doing OK.

Worst experience: Traffic accidents are a big problem. When I take a taxi alone, I sit in front and buckle up.

How to improve Shanghai:

Bicycles for rent and more designated lanes. Free license plates for electric cars. Ban the use of high-beam headlights downtown.

Advice to newcomers: Learn some Chinese. It will do wonders for both your work and personal life.


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