One woman dedicating her time for greater good of our Planet
November 10th , 2019 | Pauline Laravoire
Positive Impact for our societies and environment
After spending my first 25 years in my home country France, I now live in Kolkata. My mind has been haunted by the same question for the past 7 years now: ‘How to efficiently dedicate my limited time and capacities here on this planet to generating the greatest positive impact I can in favor of our societies and environment?’
This thread has entirely led my decision-making processes since then. When I entered top European business university HEC Paris, I signed up for courses in Social Entrepreneurship and Businesses, got involved with student associations dedicated to raising funds for special needs individuals and tutoring high schoolers from underprivileged areas. I also developed a passion for Development Economics, and human and environmental challenges abroad, which led her to take on a 2-month Social Impact Assessment Study in the Philippines in 2014.
Social Impact Assessment Training Session in Tanzania, November, 2016
Diversity & Contrasts in beauty and Ugliness
After another academic year and a professional year developing general skills in Business Administration and Strategy Consulting back in France, I returned back to the field, this time through my not-for-profit AQWA, which I co-founded with three of my friends. In 2016, the four of us took off abroad to conduct six Social Impact Assessment Studies in 12 months, at the service of corporate foundations, social entreprises and NGOs working in the WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) sector across the globe. The project took us first to Ivory Coast, then Tunisia, Senegal and Tanzania, before we landed in India for two different missions focused on farmers and their access to water, one in Tamil Nadu with NGO Hand-in-Hand and another one for renowned Barefoot College based in Rajasthan. We closed off our year on the field in Cambodia, Ecuador, and Colombia.
Never had I seen so much diversity and contrasts in beauty and ugliness at the same time, both natural and human. ‘Travelling the world opens your eyes on what the world has best to offer – great natural spaces, biodiversity, weather and water cycles, human hospitality and generosity… - but also on all of its deeply rooted issues: lack of education, critical mind and professional skills, street children, waste mismanagement, rampant social inequalities, health issues… You also quickly get to realise that everything is connected and interdependent, social and environmental aspects together: the farmer won’t grow his crops, be able to eat and earn his living if the mansoon is late or absent; the children cannot thrive in school if they drink arsenic-ridden water, or have access to water at all… Somewhere, humans, on behalf of their species’ development and progress, have gone beyond their initial natural roles, broken parts of natural cycles and self-generated some of their own biggest challenges.’
I could not close this chapter after such a deep dive into collective human and natural challenges. When I returned to France, I therefore concluded my Masters degree with a specialisation in Sustainability and Social Innovation through business perspectives, thereby going deeper and deeper into business solutions that could be sustainably designed to solve social and environmental challenges.
AQWA team in Cambodia, April 2017
You won't change the world in a day
Moving to India then, in 2018, was both a boon and a real challenge for me. The local context ‘offered’ so many challenges to work on – one of the most evident and visibly apparent being waste management. ‘But where to start? How to start? How to achieve scale? How to contribute to my best abilities to an environment I am culturally alien to?’ One of the key lessons I have learned throughout my journey is to start small and be patient.
I took on the position of Sustainability Director at educational conglomerate Techno India Group, as I believe social and environmental awareness should be deeply included into our education systems. From there, I took a leap further and founded my venture Y-East, initiative of Techno India Group, first aggregating and networking platform for actors of the sustainability and social sectors, focused on East and North East India. ‘No one can achieve significant change alone, so it appeared to me that the first step was to gather forces with other professionals through Y-East and curate larger collective collaborations locally..
Drives at Mulick Ghat, Kolkata, September, 2019
Clean up Drive - One Ghat at a time
Through Techno India Group networks, I met with Lochie, Australian entrepreneur, founder of environmental solutions platform Bouddi, who too had developed a real passion for environmental challenges, especially fighting against ocean pollution. Together, we launched the Ganges River Clean-Up Project on 1st of September 2019, a long-term project focused on stopping waste from reaching our river and ocean ecosystems through local community-driven action and technology. ‘Our collaboration happened very naturally. We both couldn’t wait another day to take concrete action on the field, and therefore started our Sunday clean-up drives very quickly after project ideation. In the first month of activity, The Project’s team organised five clean-up and public awareness drives at Mullick Ghat, Kolkata, (Read more about the clean-up drive )collected more than four tons of trash, received support of UN Champion of the Earth Afroz Shah, while planning for their long-term vision of engaging and empowering thousands of local cleaners and using simple yet efficient river technologies. My journey is still on and there is still a lot to come.
The author of the story is Pauline Laravoire, Founder of ‘Y-East’ and Sustainability Director of 'Techno India Group and you can reach out to her at https://www.facebook.com/YEast.in/
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