JOURNEYS: AN EMZINGO-U ALUMNI SERIES.
This article is part of a series written by Emzingo-U alumni to offer a first hand testimony of their experiences during our university programs.
By Sophia Lahey
As part of the 2018 Global Impact Fellowship in Peru, Sophia consulted with the nonprofit, Kantaya, to increase awareness and funds in the United States. Kantaya provides afterschool education and programs to children in the vulnerable community of Ventanilla with outstanding results such as higher graduation rate and more successful careers. She is currently studying Journalism and Business Economics and Public Policy in Indiana University. This is her story.
The people I’ve met along the way
As a Global Impact Fellow in Peru, I’ve had many opportunities to meet a wide variety of people and expand my network. What has surprised me most are the people I’ve met throughout the fellowship by chance. I started a list at the beginning of my time in Peru: the woman with her rescue dog (Perry) at a café in San Roque de Cumbaza; flight attendants paragliding with us; a Brazilian couple on the train to Machu Picchu…
The list goes on, but for some reason, these stuck. I met a woman in a café off the side of the road in San Roque de Cumbaza, in Northern Peru, where she had moved from Lima with her husband and rescue dog, Perry. Though we had different views about the poverty cycle that occurs in certain areas of Lima, the consensus we arrived to in our discussion was that the power of education (also a Kantaya tagline) allows people in vulnerable areas find better opportunities and achieve a brighter future.
While paragliding down a sand hill in Lima, I also came across three flight attendants from The Netherlands. We started talking about our lives, and what we were doing in Peru while waiting to go back up the hill. I realized then, that I had many incorrect assumptions: for example, I immediately thought that they were students. Many times, we assume things, even by observing, but it’s not until we talk with others and learn their stories that we can begin to understand the bigger picture.
Finally, on the train to Aguas Calientes, the town of Machu Picchu, I sat across from a Brazilian couple. I saw them three times after: at Machu Picchu, on the train ride back, and in Cusco. Despite both of us communicating in very rough Spanish to each other, I told them about Emzingo, and how we are “consulting” for nonprofits. They were surprised that all 19 of us fellows chose to spend our summer working for free, but this turned into an opportunity for me to explain and promote social enterprises to people who were not necessarily familiar with the concept.
Sophia and other GIF fellows during their stay in Peru.
What it all means
I think all the conversations I’ve had with these strangers follow the purpose of Emzingo, which is putting people at the center of the project. That is what Human-Centered Consulting is about, and it extends beyond our projects and experiences abroad to everyday problems and events. I love hearing their stories, such as why the couple decided to travel to Machu Picchu, or why the woman in Tarapoto decided to leave Lima. These stories are woven into a bigger history of how society functions – the good and the bad.
These people weren’t purposefully put in my path to meet or talk to, and sometimes I was nervous to start a conversation, but each person has contributed to the larger experience of this fellowship. But all the people I met, both purposefully and by chance, have a bigger story to tell.
Our project: Kantaya
I am currently working as a consultant for Kantaya, a nonprofit that provides after-school education to children in Ventanilla, one of the most vulnerable areas of Lima. Our strategy for Kantaya includes increasing awareness and funds from donors within the United States, something that I realize more and more every day requires stories to be heard and told.
For example, I just interviewed Yessica Flores, Kantaya’s co-founder, about why she chose to so start the organization. Before running this social enterprise, she was an industrial engineer in one of Peru’s most popular companies. She told us how despite studying and following such a career path, she felt ready to quit and work full time for Kantaya. She knew she couldn’t work both jobs, and her passion was with Kantaya and helping children achieve brighter futures. Devoting her time to her passion made the decision easier, as she found mission and motivation.
Sophia in Peru.
We have also been compiling success stories and testimonials. Sometimes we try to look at the bigger picture, but without understanding the most basic problems and challenges. Through these stories, we see that with the long-term intervention Kantaya provides, children in Ventanilla are more likely to graduate, move on to higher education, and break the cycle of poverty they were previously trapped in. This includes Engor, Kantaya’s first success story. With the help of Kantaya he was able to join the airforce, get a scholarship to study aviation in Russia, and bought a house for his mom and family in a less vulnerable area of Lima. His story inspired both his siblings and neighborhood to work towards better education and a better future. Getting donors and potential partners to understand why Kantaya exists works best by telling the stories of the people impacted by Kantaya.
We all have our own story to tell
I am with 18 other fellows in Lima, and each of us have our own story. What amazes me is the diversity of the stories and our backgrounds, so that when we work together, we can find solutions based on our combined experiences and knowledges. No two fellows are alike or came from the same background, and it’s amazing to hear their stories while realizing how we all took different paths to end up at the same fellowship.
It is through Emzingo, that I began to understand and appreciate the complexity of the human story behind business functions. I started as a business major at Indiana University and decided to add journalism because I love how strong reporting can tell even the simplest of stories while leaving an impact with the reader. This fellowship allows me to utilize the intersection of business and storytelling. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow, and from the stories that are produced from it.
About the author
Part of the 2018 Global Impact Fellowship in Peru, Sophia consulted with the nonprofit, Kantaya, to increase awareness and funds in the United States. Kantaya provides afterschool education and programs to children in the vulnerable community of Ventanilla with outstanding results such as higher graduation rate and more successful careers. She is currently studying Journalism and Business Economics and Public Policy in Indiana University. This is her story.
About the Global Impact Fellowship
Emzingo-U’s Global Impact Fellowship (GIF) is an international leadership program designed to offer purpose-driven undergraduate students a 6 to 8 week impact consulting internship with an NGO or Social Enterprise in an international location.
About Emzingo-U alumni series
Written by Emzingo-U alumni, this series offers a first hand testimony of our alumni’s experiences during their university programs. The opinions expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not reflect the official view of Emzingo.