Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 February 2020

Day in the life: Social entrepreneur and philanthropist connects volunteers globally

Social entrepreneur Stuart Rees Jones, behind the 'for profit' Camps International, manages eight offices around the world, which is why basing himself in Dubai helps him bounce between the different time zones more effectively.
Stuart Rees Jones, the founder and chief executive of Camps International, provides students with experiential learning experiences worldwide. Anna Nielsen for The National
Stuart Rees Jones, the founder and chief executive of Camps International, provides students with experiential learning experiences worldwide. Anna Nielsen for The National

Stuart Rees Jones is a social entrepreneur and philanthropist. The former army officer, 46, from the UK is the founder and chief executive of Camps International, a “for profit” social enterprise that provides students with experiential learning experiences worldwide. The team operate a network of international volunteer camps in rural communities throughout Latin America, East Africa and South East Asia. Mr Rees Jones is also a trustee of the Camps Foundation Charity, which funds projects focused on education, health care and conservation. He lives in Victory Heights, Sports City in Dubai with his wife Lory and two daughters, ages 13 and 10.


My wake-up time depends on my daughters’ school sports schedules – they both live to play with their various teams. Early practice sessions can mean a 5:30am crawl out of bed several times per week, but otherwise I grab a coffee and drink it while I take our Jack Russell for a walk. Breakfast No 1 is at least a coffee and some muesli while I skim the emails that have come in overnight from our regional offices around the world.


I like to do the school run every day if I am not travelling overseas, as it gives me a chance to chat with my girls and blast out some music. This alongside some embarrassing “dad singing” gets them in the mood for their day. Often they have different training schedules, so on some mornings I have to do a double school run.


I head to the gym six times a week and try to do this in the morning. Maintaining a high level of fitness is key to a healthy mind and productivity. Once I’m done, I head home for a protein shake and sometimes a second breakfast of eggs while I catch up on our social media campaigns.


I hit the desk. I work mainly from a home office as it suits the nature of my role. My team comprises our British directors who are based in each of the key territories in which we operate. Our head office is in the UK and I go back there every quarter for board meetings. The rest of the team is spread between Peru, Kenya and Australia, so I shape my working day to fit with their respective time zones. We have eight offices globally and I visit these and our camps at least once every year. I have now been based in Dubai for four years. Practically speaking, basing myself here was a wise choice, as it means I’m in the middle of all my operations. Yesterday I spent six hours on Skype bouncing between different time zones. If I were located in the UK, however, I’d be up at 3am on Skype every day. In Dubai, I catch Asia first thing in the morning and then I take care of stuff here. By the early afternoon, the UK comes online as well as Kenya, then by 7pm I’m on Skype with Peru. I drop into our Dubai office in Motor City on most days to check in with our sales team for the GCC region, which is fast becoming one of our most successful operations.


I grab lunch with my wife or our regional general manager for the Middle East. It’s a healthy affair these days, so I have a salad with chicken or tuna.


I balance my regional focus on product delivery with my more conventional role as CEO, dealing with finance, HR, marketing and business development. The months since Brexit have kept me very busy managing the range of currencies we operate in. We work in some very challenging environments where the ease of doing business ranks very low. Our camps are situated in locations ranging from the Amazon rainforest to wildlife reserves in Africa, the slopes of Kilimanjaro and jungles of South East Asia.


I take a break midafternoon and head back to school to watch a sports match or training session. I know I will be working late on most days and I don’t want to miss out on what the girls are up to. Early evening is taken up with homework and then I head back to my desk.


The UK office is four hours behind Dubai and Peru is nine hours behind. I spend the early evening working on projects and Skype meetings. We have recently launched a new sales operation in Australia and are exploring opportunities for a camp in the Galapagos. We carry approximately 5,000 students per year on expeditions and rely on the counter-seasonal rotation from our international sales offices to deliver our occupancy, so each area of the business demands a unique strategy.


I grab dinner with my wife and spend some time surfing the news channels. I play tennis on some evenings and we have a great network of friends that we socialise with. I love movies and have just got hooked on the Netflix series Narcos.


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Updated: January 7, 2017 04:00 AM



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