Film Bachelor Lead Gabrielle Szambelan on Why We’re Racing for Change in Malawi

We chat to Film Production Bachelor lead Gabrielle Szambelan about our school's participation in the S 25 Berlin to fundraise for Chimbota Secondary School in Malawi.

As Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Success does not rely on that light bulb idea alone; it takes hard work to turn it into a completed project. For runners, the relationship between sweat and success is perhaps the most literal. Because as studies like this one have found, headspace leads to greater creativity. If you ask us, the phrase shouldn’t be ‘running out of ideas,’ but ‘running into ideas.’

And that’s why, as a passionate community of creators, Catalyst [formerly dBs Berlin] couldn’t imagine a better way to fundraise for Malawi’s Chimbota Secondary School than to participate in Berlin’s annual 25 kilometre running event S 25 (formerly known as BIG 25), taking place on Sunday the 6th of May.

Catalyst [formerly dBs Berlin] has been supporting the remote school for the past two years, and it goes without saying that this incredible place is very close to our hearts. Before it was built by the local community, students had to walk nearly 20 kilometres to get to class – almost as far as we’re running. The school, which has eight well-qualified teachers and around 100 students, is not supported by the state, meaning that it currently has to charge a small fee to those in attendance.

On race day, five of our students and staff will each be running five kilometres in relay to make up the full 25k. We caught up with the organiser, Film Bachelor programme lead Gabrielle Szambelan, to find out why she’s getting involved, how to donate, and what impact the proceeds will have on Chimbota Secondary School.

Gabrielle Szambelan at S 25 Berlin

“Running, and exercising in general, is a great way for me to feel more energised about the work that I do.”

Hi Gabrielle, how’s it going?

I’m great, thanks!

First off, tell us a bit about yourself and all the amazing things you do at dBs Berlin [now Catalyst].

I am the guardian of the Film Degree programme. I actually started here as the Film Diploma lead, and then took up the Degree in 2016. In this role I develop, manage and deliver content for the course, and also teach producing, camera, lighting and film theory.

As a filmmaker, what are you most passionate about?

I love story development and visual design. For me, one of the best parts of filmmaking is working in teams of creative people – sharing ideas, constructing images together, working on set and assembling the final edit. All of this makes me passionate about filmmaking. I’m inspired by other creatives and hope I do the same for them too!

What impact does running have on your creative process?

Running, and exercising in general, is a great way for me to feel more energised about the work that I do. When I run, I can declutter my mind, relax and get back in touch with nature. Creative work, particularly filmmaking, often becomes stressful, so it’s important for me to find ways to get out of my workspace, clear my head and find some balance. I also love to run with others, so it can also be quite social too.

About Catalyst Berlin Academic Standards Lead Gabrielle Szambelan

“Having a goal in mind, such as signing up to a running event and training for it, is an excellent way to get motivated.”

What motivated you to start running in the first place? Or have you always been active?

I’ve always been quite active. I’ve been running since I was around six years old so it’s something I’ve done most of my life. I was more competitive during school, but now I do it for my health. My dad was a competitive marathon runner back in the day, so you can imagine he was training and racing all the time. He entered my siblings and I into cross-country and athletic teams when we were growing up, which is how it all started for me.

Studies show that running – and exercise in general – alleviates stress and improves mental health. What would you say to those who recognise the benefits but feel too busy or bogged down to work out?

There really are no excuses! You just have to go out and do it. I think having a goal in mind, such as signing up to a running event and training for it, is an excellent way to get motivated. Finding someone to run with you helps a lot as well.

Well, you’re somehow managing to train on top of everything else you do. Is this year’s S 25 the first charity run you’ve taken part in?

I’ve participated in charity running events in Australia, but this is the first time I’ve organised one in Berlin. I’m really looking forward to it! The relay team – and our school as a whole – is incredibly supportive of the idea, which makes it even more worthwhile.

What inspired you to become an organiser?

I think running is a great way to bring people together. We have never organised something like this before at dBs Berlin [now Catalyst], and I thought it could be a new and exciting project to do – especially since we’ve been discussing health in our Dialogues panel talks this year. It’s nice to put our thoughts about health and well-being into action.

I think promoting well-being at a creative school is important, especially for mental health, and it’s great that we’re coming together as a team from different areas of the school to do this. Our relay team is made up of staff and students from the film, screen acting and music schools.

Catalyst Berlin tutors at S25 Berlin

“This is the first time we’re doing a campaign like this, so I’m curious to see how much we can raise.”

Can you tell us more about Chimbota Secondary School?

It was only recently that I found out our school was making donations to Chimbota Secondary School. They were recently in contact and told us that development is going well. They’ve just started building a maize grinding mill in the village. This will provide resources for the community and also act as an income-generating project for the school. They are currently raising funds for a boarding project which is also very exciting.

How did dBs Berlin [now Catalyst] first become connected to Chimbota?

This was initiated by David, our school director, several months ago. On a visit to Malawi, he met a member of the community who helped to get the school project up and running. David loved the idea of the community-building project and was very keen to get our school involved.

The students had to walk really, really far to get to class before the school was built. How does it make you feel that you guys will collectively be running around the same distance?

When I think of the distance the students had to walk in order to access education, I literally can’t come up with any words to describe how I feel. If anything, I’m more aware of how important this school is for young people in the area and how essential it is to support to their project.

How much money are you hoping to raise and what impact will it have?

This is the first time we’re doing a campaign like this, so I’m curious to see how much we can raise. I feel that anything over 500 euros is a success. This will allow Chimbota Secondary School to purchase much-needed educational resources for their teachers and students, and to help fund further development of their school facilities.

The thousand-euro question: How can we donate?

You can donate online to our crowdfunding campaign.

Thanks so much for talking to us and good luck!

Head to Chimbota Secondary School to follow their journey.