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Helen Mauchi was born and raised in Guayaquil, the biggest city in Ecuador. During her childhood, her parents, immigrants from Canton, China, owned and managed the largest Chinese restaurant in the city—a background that gave her a vigorous appreciation of good food. Because her parents believed that learning English was important for their children's future, she and her four siblings attended the American School. There, during her high school years, she specialized and excelled in philosophy and literature.

For college, she came to the United States to study fine arts at UCLA. Among her professors was Art Durinsky, a pioneer in computer graphics design. Graduating in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in graphic design, Helen began working as a designer while continuing her education through UCLA Extension, earning a professional certificate in graphic design and visual communications.

For 10 years, she worked for Continental Communication Agency, a company that specializes in translating and in designing materials for a variety of foreign languages. Her work focused on multilingual communications materials, and over the years she designed numerous technical manuals for a variety of industries and fields, including medicine, education, computers, and defense. Among her clients were Microsoft Corporation, Litton Corporation, Baxter Paramax, and the American University in Lebanon.

Even before college, she had wanted to work for an art institution. Through a listing in the newspaper, she learned of free-lance design work for GCI Publications, and beginning in 1990, she was a consultant for the Institute. Two years later, she joined the staff as an assistant coordinator for Publications. In 1998 she was promoted to senior designer. Her work includes coordinating, supervising, and often designing a variety of materials—from books, catalogues, and conference materials to slide presentations, promotional items, signage, and exhibition graphics. She also organizes GCI Publications book exhibits at conferences. She takes pride in being part of projects done by the GCI around the world and finds the international aspect of her work especially satisfying. Her own multicultural background has made her an internationalist at heart. Indeed, among her present personal challenges is mastering Jewish cuisine—in particular, refining her technique for making kreplach, the Jewish version of the Chinese wonton.