Kristina is a Danish-Swiss mum who lived mostly in Denmark, with spells in Thailand, Holland, Germany and Australia, and moved to Dubai 4 years ago with her husband and little son.
Now she is one multi-faceted lady: first and foremost, she is a mum to Izabella, 3, and Alexander, 5; she is a marketing freelancer currently involved in a number of projects, she is a food blogger, and she is also a philanthropist who collects Lego pieces to send to school children in the Philippines. She has also designed children’s clothes – the cutest balloon pants and skirts in Liberty London fabric - that she first made for her daughter and later also made to sell because they were so popular amongst her friends. ‘I love Liberty prints and it’s such good quality fabric that you can wash endlessly without it fading or deteriorating. My daughter has lots of them and they have seen her from toddlerhood when they were long to her ankle, to now where they are knee-length or can also be worn as culottes. My passion for my Lego project has now taken over and I much prefer spending my time on something that will help little people elsewhere in the world who enjoy less privileges’.
Her home in JBR is filled with light and has sweeping views of both the Dubai Marina and The Beach. The apartment has that minimalism that Scandinavians seem to be such naturals at, and breathes Danish design and art: from the Corona chair, Finn Petersen paintings and Louis Poulsen lighting; to the Fritz Hansen furniture, vintage children’s books and the Royal Copenhagen crockery – a special wedding gift which is customary in Denmark.
KRISTINA THE PHILANTHROPIST - Building a future brick by brick
How did it all start?
In true Danish spirit, my kids play with Lego every single day. Whilst watching them play and seeing the endless possibilities of Lego, it occurred to me how beneficial it would be for children in less privileged countries and circumstances to also have access to Lego – such a fantastic tool to help with their development and education. And so, I made contact with schools in the rural areas of the Philippines and the idea was very well received, especially as it is very durable and fit for the weather conditions there. I always try and send the shipments of Lego to different schools and areas.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Getting the word out. I have set up the Facebook page Lego Brick Collection Dubai and some of the awareness has been raised through word-of-mouth. In Denmark and Switzerland both friends and family are helping spread the word, and with the collections too. My mum comes to visit quite often, so she brings the collections with her for me to ship across, and I also have a friend visiting this weekend, who will bring 10kg of Lego with her. Now I also run regular school campaigns and set up a collection point at the school, plus I drive around Dubai almost on a weekly basis, collecting donations from people’s homes.
One other challenge is getting everyone to understand that they do not need to donate their entire Lego sets! Just a small donation of 5 pieces of either Lego or Duplo is great! The beauty of Lego is that all the pieces fit together, so I can match the different donations to make my own sets.
Having said that, I am grateful to live in a city and country with such a strong culture of giving.
What has been your biggest success?
During our summer in Denmark a whole 35kg of Lego were donated through the collection points I had set up at the local newspaper offices and library. We have completed two boxfuls since we came back to Dubai and they have been shipped to the Patungcaleo Elementary School and the Vicente Calius Primary School in the Philippines. I cannot wait for the boxes to reach the schools and see the pictures of the children’s faces filled with excitement and playing with their ‘new’ Lego! There is a third box being made up as we speak.
I also recently received a donation of 18kg of brand new, still-in-the-box Lego from one particular very generous individual in Denmark, which I am of course very excited about!
What is your biggest dream?
To be able to grow the project bigger, and help children in other countries too.
KRISTINA THE MUM
What is your secret to juggling everything: work/Lego collection project/family/blogging?
I do not have a home helper, so I had to just cut a lot of the unnecessary tasks out and think of ways of doing things smarter. My son goes to school in Umm Suqeim, so I paired up with other mum friends in the neighbourhood to share things like the daily school run. I also looked for a nursery within walking distance for Izzi, so she now goes to a nursery in the building next to ours, which is super convenient. I am fortunate enough to have my mum come to stay with us when I have work-related travel too, and one other thing I found really helps is start prioritising.
How do you get your kids to stay grounded in our glitzy Dubai?
I share the donation process with them and get them involved in the packaging and sending of the Lego. With the privileged expat environment they are growing in, it is important they understand there are less fortunate children elsewhere. I must say that they are very good at absorbing that.
What do you wish for your children?
I want them to be filled with love from and for their family and friends. And I would like them to learn about people and especially the needy, how to listen to them, how to care about them and how to help them. There is a world outside Dubai and they need to understand this for their future too.
What is your favourite activity with your kids?
Two months of our year are spent in Denmark, at our summer house in a small town outside Copenhagen. We do lots and lots of scavenger hunts – I just draw the items they need to find on a piece of paper, and off they go, running, laughing and screaming with excitement. We also have crab hunting sessions on the beach with their grandparents, and we look after our kitchen garden where we grow blueberries, blackberries, sweet peas, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, mint, plums and carrots – the kids love watching the veggies grow. This is where we have our quality time, in the woods, amidst nature and relaxing in the summer house.
How would you say motherhood has changed you?
It has given me the capacity to love unconditionally! No matter what my kids would say or do I could never stop loving them with all my heart and soul.
What have you learned from motherhood?
That it is important to live in the moment. Kids grow so fast, so I want to grab every little moment I can with my children. I do appreciate every single day and I remind myself of how privileged I am to be able to enjoy a lot of time with them since I started working part time. I remember when I used to work full time and I really didn't have much time to spend with Alex: I picked him at 5pm, we then went home, cooked dinner, bathtime and off to bed! Now quality of life is so much better for us as a family!
And one of the most important lessons for me has been that the kids are mirroring your behaviour so you really have to be at your best every day, all day long.
Do you have one particular parenting tip?
Eat with your children. They will pick up your good habits and they will enjoy eating healthy. I am often told what good eaters my children are, and I put it down to eating together. This is also the time when they get to tell me all about their day. So I have dinner with the kids at 5:30pm and then when my husband comes home from work, I sit with him during his dinner, but I will already have eaten.
Then, make healthy eating fun. Over the summer, we would use vegetables and fruits to create animals and I would also make Lego men ice-pops out of fresh fruit and vegetable juices, and so my son is now happily sipping on kale juice, eating raw cauliflower or spinach, and lots of capsicums.
Image 23: Kristina Kunz
KRISTINA THE WOMAN
What is your favourite holiday destination?
The Anantara Dighu Maldives Resort! We stayed last year and it has been undoubtedly our best holiday ever. The kids (and us too!) were so excited to see the baby sharks and stingrays! The snorkeling on the very beach of the resort was fabulous too and brimming with bright and colourlful sealife. For the kids it was a great fun to see the large crabs that would emerge at night and run around everywhere on the island! One of the highlights of the trip was when all four of us were sitting in the massive outdoor (sheltered) bathtub of our room during a storm, with the rain pouring down around us. The holiday was pure relaxation.
The 3 things could you not live without?
My family – my husband and my kids, and also my family in Denmark with whom we Skype every single day!
My food blogging – I simply love food!
Lego - in my opinion, it is the best entertainment for the kids and has tremendous potential as a developmental tool
You have an impressive foodie account on Instagram #kristinakunz: what is your favourite restaurant in Dubai?
I can often be seen at Baker&Spice for breakfast. I like to know what is in the food, and for me it has to be healthy, organic and locally produced.
The best spot for lunch in my opinion is The Cove at The Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
And for a dinner date with hubby, La Serre in Downtown Dubai! French food is one of my favourite cuisines, so when in France, I have many favourites eateries.
Do you have any funny ‘kid stories’ you can share?
With Alex: When he holds the door for me or helps me, I like to tell him that he is such a gentleman. So when he was younger he would say: ‘I am not a gentleman mummy, I am a handyman!’
With Izzi: She mixes up her Danish and English, especially after the summer vacation in Denmark, so she makes all kinds of hilarious sentences in Danish like ‘I bare wanna do it a self’ (I just want to do it myself). This always makes me chuckle.
Photography: Sophia Mattia Photography
Sophia has a passion for creating imaginative and gorgeous photographs that comes through beautifully in the work. Following her Graphic Design studies at Central St Martins in London, she put that passion into practice and started working with clients in Dubai, the UK and Australia. She loves working with natural lights and we absolutely adore her very natural and relaxed style of photography. Click on here to visit her website and see her work.