June 11th, 2016, marks the fourth annual Global Wellness Day, and it has become literally just that: global. Since its founding by Belgin Aksoy, creative director of Richmond Nua Wellness-Spa in Turkey, the initiative has grown tremendously, and this year more than 3,000 spas and hotels in more than 100 countries will celebrate in all kinds of ways.
This Global Wellness Day is extra-special, as it is dedicated to the memory of Charlene Florian, chief creative officer of Kerstin Florian International who recently passed away. Charlene was a nature lover and one of the kindest spirits who dedicated her life to the betterment of the spa industry. She was also an early supporter of Global Wellness Day. “Despite her recent passing, Charlene’s passion in promoting this message will live on through our efforts and those of local and international communities that are dedicated to happiness, health, and living well,” says Julie Andrews, president of Kerstin Florian International.
To honor Charlene’s memory, Belgin is creating the Charlene Florian Forest by planting 2,000 trees in Turkey—for starters. Kerstin Florian and partners in the spa community at large are supporting this initiative with sponsored tree plantings worldwide. I asked Belgin a few questions:
You launched Global Wellness Day four years ago. What has given you the most joy—and been the biggest challenge—since launching?
One of the most joyful and challenging parts of Global Wellness Day was to reach International Governments from different countries. GWD today has the support of International Governments such as these:
• GWD Thailand is being supported by Tourism Authority of Thailand, Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, and Thai Spa Association.
• GWD Cyprus is carrying out joint projects with GWD Cyprus Tourist Organization, the Governor’s Ofﬁces of Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Agia Napa, and Nicosia. The president of Cyprus also has given his support to GWD.
• GWD France is collaborating with the National Association of Mayors of Touristic Cities in France. In this context, 920 Mayors in France are being informed and encouraged.
•GWD Turkey has the support of Touristic Hotel Investors Association, Turkish Heart Foundation, and Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
• The mayor of Langley in Canada, Jack Froese, supports Global Wellness Day.
• Aruba Tourism Association is taking the lead in GWD 2016 for all Spas on Aruba.
• Mayor of Imperial Beach in USA, Serge Dedina, is ready to embrace Global Wellness Day in 2016.
• GWD India has the support of the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Health of Maharashtra, one of the largest states of the subcontinent.
• GWD Costa Rica has the support of Mr Johnny Araya the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor Mrs. Paula Vargas Ramírez of San José, capital of Costa Rica.
• GWD Ireland has the support of TD, Tony McLoughlin to bring to government and the attention of Irish Health Ministers.
One of the main challenges of the project is for the United Nations to observe Global Wellness Day as an international day in its 2017 calendar.
How has GWD grown since 2012, and has its growth surprised you?
I have always believed that the idea of living well is almost the entire world’s shared dream. With Global Wellness Day, we have turned this shared dream into reality, and people from all around the world have embraced the project.
Since 2012, Global Wellness Day has grown fast and grown organically. Each day, at least 10 people from different countries reach out to GWD Administrative Center in Istanbul to become an Ambassador and celebrate Global Wellness Day in their own country.
To spread the Global Wellness Day’s message, so far, we have appointed 83 GWD Ambassadors, 21 Key Supporters from 100 and counting countries in seven continents. To date, we have touched the lives of 250 million people worldwide.
Another international development I would like to mention is that over the past two years, Global Wellness Day received the support of Hollywood stars such as Ving Rhames, Josh Charles, Ty Burrell, Jessie Taylor Ferguson, Mayim Bialik, and Joe Morton. In addition, GWD also has the support of authors Deepak Chopra and Agapi Stassinopoulos, sports stars Venus Williams and Rainbeau Mars, and leaders of the business world, including founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, co-creator of Skype, Jonas Kjellberg, and Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder of Teach for All.
Major international media outlets have also supported the project since 2012, and the news of GWD has been published in Huffington Post, Harpar’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, European Spa magazine, Blue Wings magazine, Cabines France, Vanity Fair, Insider’s Guide to Spas, Direto de Forte, Spa & Wellness Magazine, La Depeche, Women’s Health magazine, Spa Business, World Travel magazine, Spirituality & Health magazine, and Turisticki Svet. The news about GWD has also been broadcasted on channels such as; CNBC-E, RTBF, TVCOM, CNNTURK, FOX, BLOOMBERG, and PHYSIQUE TV.
Wellness is a philosophy that should start in an individual’s childhood, not adulthood.
You have 83 GWD Ambassadors in 100 countries around the world. How did you choose them, and what do they have in common?
GWD Ambassadors are the highest authority on Global Wellness Day in their countries. If Ambassadors deem it appropriate, they can involve different supporters as partners in the GWD.
At this point, the persons who make a considerably dedicated effort and take signiﬁcant steps for the extension and development of GWD may be honored with the title of “GWD Key Supporter.” The GWD Key Supporters who strive to extend GWD nationwide may be working in different business sectors (not only the Wellness sector ). When GWD Ambassadors receive a demand like this or when they think a supporter deserves this title, they should contact the GWD Administrative Centre, Istanbul for conﬁrmation and announcement of the person’s “GWD Key Supporter” title.
Could you give us an example of a community that has truly embraced GWD?
As Global Wellness Day is celebrated in 3,000 different locations today, it is hard to give an example of a community. But if I have to give an example, I can say that GWD International Coordinator, Jean-Guy de Gabriac is doing amazing work—to date, he has reached out to 600 institutions at 300 different locations in France to celebrate GWD.
You’ve coined the term, Gen-W. Can you explain what that is and the meaning behind it?
Feeling good has no age! Wellness is a philosophy that should start in an individual’s childhood, not adulthood. Children who are aware of living well not only become more successful in life, but as they are also healthy adults, they are more able to express themselves freely in their social lives.
Globally, there are more than 1.6 billion overweight adults, at least 300 million of them clinically obese. In just 10 years, the WHO projects that number will grow by 40 percent. Globally more than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010. Childhood obesity levels are running at more than 10 percent in all countries except Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Ireland and the United States are the only countries in which more than 25 percent of children report exercising for at least an hour a day.
This year, GWD is dedicated to the lovely Charlene Florian, who recently passed away. You’ve started a beautiful initiative called the Charlene Florian Forest. Would you please explain what that is, and how it came to be?
Throughout her life, Charlene Florian, Chief Creative Officer, Kerstin Florian International, was always an ambassador of wellness, leaving an indelible footprint on the industry and giving her full support to Global Wellness Day from the very beginning. To honor and commemorate her memory, we have dedicated Global Wellness Day 2016 to Charlene Florian’s legacy. Charlene was always a nature lover, and one of her passions was to make the world a better place. As a first step to honor Charlene’s memory, we have started the cooperation with TEMA (Turkish Foundation For Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats) by planting 2,000 trees in Turkey to help green the lands with the Charlene Florian Forest. I have invited all GWD countries’ Ambassadors to carry out the same practice for Charlene with similar Foundations in their countries.
What is your best advice for those who would like to live a healthier life, but who may have difficulty taking the first step?
As we are highlighting the 7-Step Manifesto of Global Wellness Day, a person can start by implementing at least some of the steps below to start living a healthier life.
• Walk for an hour
• Drink more water
• Don’t use plastic bottles
• Eat organic foods
• Do a good deed
• Have a family dinner
• Sleep at 10:00 PM
For more information, visit globalwellnessday.org.