Founders of Project Nasi and feeders of the future
In the corporate world I used to treat myself with nice things as compensation for all my hard work. Living here, I don’t need to buy happiness.
Tell us your story – how did you get here?
Sam: I came to Bali on a surfing holiday and met some amazing people who were living here. They told me about a job at the Australian International School, and within a few months, I moved over. 14 years later I’m still here and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
James: I first made the move over to Bali in early 2013 with my girlfriend at the time. We wanted to open a sushi restaurant with the idea to be able to work sporadically, relax, and surf every day! But of course, that all changed when the businesses kept growing and in turn I had to swap the surfboard for a desk. I wouldn’t change a thing though, and have loved every moment of it. Now, nine years later I’m running five restaurants including Sushimi, Ling Lings, Shooters and Chow Chow, with a few more to come this year!
Ella: I grew up in the South of Germany and spent many summers in Turkey, my mother’s home country. After high school I moved to Austria for University because I love to be in the mountains, and a couple of years later, I set myself the goal to leave Europe and move to Asia and live by the sea. Being raised around two different cultures made me appreciative and taught me to stay open minded, be respectful, and make my own decisions, even if they are not in line with prevailing social opinions. I often hear that I’m lucky to live in Bali, but I’ve worked hard, I made a decision and I took a risk.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Sam: Starting a fundraiser which eventually became a registered Australian charity with the ACNC. When we started, I initially thought we would be doing this for a couple of weeks or months at the most to help people bridge the time without tourism and work. I soon started to realise that we were in it for the long run, and I wanted to continue helping and focus on long term solutions. That’s why we are currently developing education and training opportunities for locals who have been impacted by the pandemic. I’m also very proud of the Mexican and Cuban restaurant we built, Sinaloa, which I am super excited to be opening again soon!
James: The work we have done through Project Nasi and also during the pandemic, where we managed to keep over 150 staff employed without having to let go of a single one of them.
Ella: Finding the courage to quit my job in Switzerland and move to Bali during the pandemic, as well as the years of work leading up to my Master of Science degree and being part of an amazing team, whose fundraising became recognised as an Australian Non-Profit Organisation.
What impact have you made in Bali?
Sam: I have always tried to give back to the community in whatever small way I can, but I think the most significant impact has been through Project Nasi. In April 2020, together with a group of friends (Ella, James, Blake, Chelsea & Winny), we started a GoFundMe fundraiser called Project Nasi. We set up a food distribution to help people in need to survive the impacts of the pandemic. Since then, we have provided almost 500,000 meals to more than 10,000 families in need. We are currently implementing Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs which will provide locals who have been severely impacted by the pandemic with full scholarship opportunities. I am very excited about the VET program as providing educational opportunities is life-changing and will give promising young people the pathways they need to create a successful future for themselves.
James: I like to think I have made a positive impact in Bali through the work of Project Nasi. Hopefully my values and ideals have also transpired onto my many staff and employees to slowly start making the world a better place, for them and for future generations.
Ella: I was still in Europe when we started Project Nasi and couldn’t help on site, so I managed the finances and made sure from the start that our operations were 100% transparent. I believe that the majority of our donors like to see what impact their donation has and appreciate that we are completely open with how we use our funds. Through our charity work, I hope that we were not only able to provide some relief during this difficult time, but also give some hope, and show people in Bali that the world is thinking of them, considers the island their second home, and cannot wait to return.
What does 2022 look like for you?
Sam: Personally, I will be busy teaching at AIS and reopening my restaurant Sinaloa in Legian. I cannot wait to see my friends and family after more than two years and welcome tourists back to the island. I will also be working on the educational programs for Project Nasi, which are starting in July this year.
James: 2022 seems to be heading in the right direction for us here (fingers crossed) as we are slowly working on becoming more eco-friendly and sustainable both through Project Nasi and the restaurant group.
Ella: My focus this year with Project Nasi, besides the usual operations, is on developing and implementing an environmental program. Providing food support will always be a core function of Project Nasi, but we aim to operate with positive environmental impact. Inspired by Janur Yasa and his program Plastic Exchange, we want to change the common throwaway behaviour towards a more sustainable habit of separating and recycling by offering incentives such as rice. Our goal is to reduce the amount of garbage that enters the environment and the world’s water systems.
What do you love most about Bali?
Sam: The waves, ocean, people and the culture.
James: If I could put it down to one thing, I’d say I love the beautiful Balinese smiles that welcome you with open arms and can instantly revitalise your positivity.
Ella: For me it’s the Balinese culture, with ceremonies and little offerings being part of daily life. Then there’s the simple things like being able to jump in the ocean at the end of a long day, or enjoying a coconut at the beach. In the corporate world I used to treat myself with nice things as compensation for all my hard work. Living here, I don’t need to buy happiness.
What's the one change in the world you’d like to see?
Sam: For the world to use its resources and wealth both sustainably and ethically.
James: I’d like to see a world that prioritises health over wealth.
Ella: People living in harmony with each other and the environment. The world is changed by our actions, not by our intentions.
Who is your Local Legend and why?
Sam: Everyone who, during the pandemic, was fortunate enough to be in a position where they were able to help others, and did. It was so amazing to see how many people, both locally and abroad, did whatever they could to help those less fortunate. I believe difficult times bring out the best and the worst in people, and it was so incredible to be in Bali and see how many amazing things people were doing to support each other. Kylie from Crisis Kitchen, the Lembongan Surf Team and of course our Project Nasi team are all stand out Local Legends to me.
James: I would have to say Sam Mahony is my Local Legend. He was the one who first started Project Nasi and came to me with the idea that I jumped at immediately. He is always looking out for the betterment of society and is a great role model to the kids he teaches at the Australian International School, all while still having time for everyone. His generosity speaks for itself even as he is teaching the future, running Sinaloa restaurant and On The Juice bar whilst also working as the Director and Founder of Project Nasi. The world needs more people like Sam.
Ella: Everyone in Bali who came up with an idea of how to provide for their families in these difficult times. Before tourism was the main sector, the island used to be rich in agriculture and handcrafts. Despite all the tragedy, we’ve seen many creative ways of creating income, strong communities and hope. The Balinese people never lost their smile which makes them my Local Legends.