Janne Willems has traveled across 20 countries to collect drawings for her “Seize Your Moments” non-profit project since July 2013 after giving up her job as a writer in the Netherlands.
Vietnam is the 20th country Janne has visited to carry out her personal project in which she asks strangers to draw beautiful moments from their lives, she told Tuoitrenews in an interview in Ho Chi Minh City.
The 31-year-old woman has collected more than 1,500 drawings across Asia and Europe.
1,000 drawings per continent
Janne started collecting paintings in the Netherlands in 2010 by inviting people in parks or on trains to draw their special moments.
Their positive reactions encouraged Janne and inspired her to expand the project around the world three years later.
Janne said that she plans to collect 1,000 paintings per continent.
Janne asks people to draw a picture and also asks them about the stories behind the images, then displays them on her website as a way to share the positive feelings with the world.
“I started the “Seize Your Moments” project because I know that beautiful moments in a day can really make someone happy,” Jannes said. “It benefits me because I can help people, as the pictures really brighten up their day. They smile when they draw because drawing reminds them of their beautiful memory. That’s an amazing thing.”
Janne said she was touched and encouraged when people told her they were inspired by her project.
She once cried over a long email a girl sent her, thanking Janne for the inspiration to lead a happier life.
“Sometimes I meet people who don’t know what to draw because they think their life is not beautiful, but after a few minutes, they remember something that is good enough for them to start drawing,” Janne said.
Despite giving up her job and becoming temporarily homeless, Janne’s family supports her project.
They have been surprised and impressed by what she has accomplished with the project.
One of her biggest inspirations for the project was her mother, who passed away six and a half years ago from cancer.
“My mother always taught me how important the small stuff in life is. I remember once we sat to watch birds on a street. She was weak but we had a beautiful time. She always advised me to look around and see how cool this life can be,” Janne said.
“Vietnam has surprised me”
For her travel costs, Janne said she has resorted to crowd funding (a method where people donate their own money to someone’s project).
After she put forward the idea on her website, many people came forward, saying they would donate money to help her undertake the project.
To save costs, Janne uses couchsurfing, a homestay service, for her accommodation. Sometimes she does work, such as painting the interior of her hosts’ home, or stays for free.
Janne is not afraid of traveling alone, saying good people are everywhere, despite some property loss she has endured while globetrotting.
“If bad things happen, they simply happen and I have to deal with them. For instance, a few days ago my laptop was stolen and I shared it on my page. People then shared hugs, love, support, and someone even asked around if somebody had a laptop for me. That helped me a lot,” she said with a smile.
Before HCMC, Janne also took trips to Hanoi and Dong Hoi in the central region, bringing a card with the sentence “Please draw your beautiful memory from last week for me” written in Vietnamese and collected 150 beautiful moments from people there.
Janne said she was stunned to see how willing Vietnamese people were to help her translate their stories as well as how excited they were with her project.
Of all the countries she has visited, Vietnam has one of the highest rates of people willing to draw for Janne.
“Seventy percent of Vietnamese people I asked agreed to draw their moments for me,” Janne shared. “I put one message on couchsurfing and heard from around 15 people in Hanoi ready to help me during the time I stayed there. That’s really amazing,” she said.
Another thing that surprises Janne and makes Vietnam different from other countries she has visited is the importance placed on family.
A lot of Vietnamese participants prefer to draw family-related moments, while in Laos people usually drew pictures relating to nature. Many Europeans choose love-related moments to draw.
“It signifies what is important to them. That’s the reason to do this project: to find what makes people happy in each country and what is important to them. And I like to find the differences among the countries,” Janne said.
After Vietnam, Janne will travel to other Asian countries like Cambodia and Singapore, Australia, and North and South America to continue her collection, then she will publish a proper book and hold an exhibition featuring drawings selected from her trips.