CandleX is constantly impressed by the work that other organizations or platforms in Beijing are doing, contributing to personal and community growth. CandleX believes the future lies in the younger generation, so we created a space for those mental health-oriented teens to sit face-to-face with community leaders, interviewing them on their vulnerabilities, intentions, stories, and work.
This is an interview done by our 17-year-old teen writer—a child of an expat family who lives in Beijing. She sat down with the founder of the Great Human Connection, Matteo Casto, to learn more about why he founded the Great Human Connection.
Interviewer and author: Nicola
Interviewee: Matteo Gasto,
founder of Great Human Connection
Maybe you’ve been feeling unmotivated, alone, indifferent. Maybe you’ve enjoyed working from home, spending more time with your family members. Maybe they’ve driven you insane—whatever it is, for most of us, life has been different since the pandemic started. Maybe you’ve picked up baking or Sunday walks or started drinking tea to help cope with the changes. There’s no shortage of Covid-driven, or perhaps Covid-enabled, projects and coping mechanisms.
Thinking about these Covid-enabled projects led me to sit down with Matteo Casto and his partner, Lisa Li, to discuss their own lockdown project: The Great Human Connection.
When Matteo moved to China in February of 2019, he was determined to make his time here more meaningful than the business trips and holidays he had spent in China before. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic threw a wrench in those plans. With everything locked down, people were confined to their homes and worried about the goings-on outside of our doors; Matteo felt stressed, limited and restricted—not how he had anticipated 2020 to go for him. The travel restrictions meant that he couldn’t visit his children or other family members for a long while, and it became harder to maintain his other relationships. He admitted feeling like he wasn’t living up to his role as a father or friend—because he couldn’t.
Perhaps knowing his situation makes the Great Human Connection almost self-explanatory: determined to have meaning, let down by circumstances, and lacking the usual closeness of his relationships, Matteo decided he could simply make it happen, create meaning. That leaves the questions of exactly what the GHC is/does.
The Great Human Connection is primarily an online platform connecting people with meaningful events, conversations, and get-togethers. It’s designed as a tool to enable people to understand themselves better and connect with others who find meaning in the same events. Based on the theory that there are five main areas of fulfillment/types of people (executive, validator, intellectual, director, and realtor), most of us a combination of two kinds, the GHC seeks to bring people closer to what they need to feel content. Follow their WeChat account and learn more at their event.
In line with their motto, “Know yourself. Connect to your community. Change the world,” Matteo and Lisa believe that we have a responsibility to figure out who we are, what brings us fulfillment, and to seek that out and communicate our needs to others. A vital part of this process is self-reflection, as well as spending time with others.
While the GHC has brought about positive experiences for those interacting with the platform, Matteo says that it’s been a positive experience for him too. Trying to bring others closer to themselves is inevitably followed by asking yourself what you need and want from life. For both him and Lisa, who runs GHC’s lifestyle brand, the Art Of Connection, founding their platform has given them opportunities to host events meaningful to them and gave this lockdown period more purpose. Incidentally, the manpower and talent needed to keep such an ambitious, kind initiative going strengthened the relationships Matteo felt had been slipping. He shared that two of his children are involved with volunteering and providing content for the Spanish version of their website, as well as friends helping with the general upkeep. While the GHC was born out of a place of unfulfillment and discontent—or maybe because it was—it’s taken root and blossomed into a genuine vehicle for connection, and both Matteo and Lisa have found meaning in what they do.
Like the rest of us, the GHC is still getting to know itself. Coming up on its one-year anniversary (happy birthday!), Matteo and Lisa are contemplating where to go from here. The Art of Connection is staying; though they might be narrowing down the broad net they’d initially cast. An area that may be growing is the Modern Man—a series of workshops and a support group surrounding men’s mental health. His own experience in early 2020 made Matteo realize that mental health can affect everyone, anytime, and there’s quite a lack of resources plus some more stigma for men struggling with their mental health. He hopes to expand this section and empower and enable more men worldwide to open up, talk about their experiences and bring this power to others in their community. Definitely something to keep an eye out for!
I encourage you to check out their WeChat account or website and see if you may be interested in one of their upcoming events! Not to bring personal bias into an article, but I found a lot of value in their mission to essentially help people create a better, more fulfilling life for themselves and those around them through the sheer act of knowing who you are and listening to who other people are. Where better to start than with the Great Human Connection?
Thank you to Matteo and Lisa for the insightful conversation and for taking the time to sit down with me.
Photos: from Matteo Gasto