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Born in Geneva, Noëlle Demole, founder and executive director of the NGO Shere Khan Youth Protection, has her hands full. She is money laundering and compliance officer at Julius Baer Bank and runs her NGO while pursuing a PhD in criminology at the University of Cambridge. Her secret? Planning and self-organization.
Noëlle Demole sees her life as a mission to fight organized crime and injustice. "All the things I do at the same time are interconnected and serve a larger goal," she says.
It wasn't always clear to her, however, what she wanted to accomplish with her life. When she graduated from high school, her grandfather advised her to go to India - an idea that would change her entire life. Demole followed the suggestion and stayed there for a month to help at an orphanage with 120 children. "I never forgot those children," says the 29-year-old. "That's when my life started to have meaning - and that was to help children in India."
When she returned to Geneva to study international relations at the EU Business School, she had already set her sights on doing humanitarian work in India. After earning her bachelor's degree, Demole discovered her second passion while interning at EFG Private Bank in compliance management. "I loved the work that ensured the bank was not moving dirty money from drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorist financing, tax evasion or other illegal and criminal activities," Demole said.
She combined her two passions, humanitarian work and compliance, and decided to pursue a master's degree in negotiation and conflict resolution at Columbia University. "We negotiate constantly, at all times," she says. "I realized that the ability to communicate and manage conflict was central to both my dream in India and my work at the bank."
In parallel with her master's degree, Demole founded her NGO, Shere Khan Youth Protection, in 2018. The idea was to help homeless people in India and give them access to education. Indeed, the problem at the orphanage where Demole worked when she was 18 was that children were kicked out of the home at the age of 16 to make room for newcomers. That means these kids are left to live on the streets without a proper education or the skills to find a job, which often pushes them into crime. "This is where we come in," Demole explains. "Whatever these kids need and want to achieve with their lives, we fund it."
The NGO's long-term goal is to help a total of 1,000 students gain access to an education. In the four years the organization has been active, the seven-member team (four of whom live and work in India and three are based in Switzerland) has been able to help 305 students. Demole says the NGO needs between 50,000 and 60,000 CHF per year, which is financed through donations and fundraising events.
For her personal future, Demole aims to sustain the three pillars of her life - "compliance work, NGO, PhD" (she is currently pursuing a PhD in criminology at Cambridge University). Demole says she knows that her life and work today is just the first step, and that the key now is to stay focused and motivated - to make a real difference in the end.
...the 29-year-old from Switzerland is AML Compliance Officer at Bank Julius Baer and founder of Shere Khan Youth Protection. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Criminology at the University of Cambridge and has completed her Masters in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University.