The Magnuson Center & Rassias Center Social Entrepreneurship Experience in Mexico City brought students, educators and entreprenuers together.
Ten Dartmouth students travelled to Mexico City last month for the Magnuson Center & Rassias Center Social Entrepreneurship experience Mexico City, Mexico. The journey was part of a broader Global Dartmouth initiative that the Magnuson Center hopes to continue well into the future. This account of the trip was written by Varsha Shukla, a Ph.D. candidate at Thayer School of Engineering.
The moment my feet touched the ground in Mexico, I was instantly struck by the vibrancy and liveliness of the country. The air was thick with the scent of exotic flowers, and the springtime hues of purple and green seemed to dance around me. It was as if the very essence of the place was pulsing with energy, urging me to explore and discover all that it had to offer. I was eager to embark on my journey, to immerse myself in the culture and environment, and to learn all about the incredible work being done by the most passionate advocates of sustainability and social entrepreneurship. From the moment I set foot in this enchanting country, I knew that the experiences ahead would be nothing short of extraordinary.
My odyssey began on a vibrant Saturday. I arrived at Ehecalli, a sustainable living community led by Dartmouth College alum Fernando 'Nando' Ausin D’06, who also runs various other social entrepreneurship ventures like BioTu. After a brief orientation, we kicked off our day with a traditional Temascal sweat lodge, a steamy ritual that cleanses both body and soul. I emerged from that experience feeling like a new person, ready to take on whatever challenges the day had in store for me.
We rolled up our sleeves and engaged in an eco-building initiative that allowed us to contribute to the community in a tangible manner. We were making a difference, one brick at a time. And after a hard day's work, we ended the day with a revitalizing sound bath and meditation. As we lay there in a state of deep relaxation, surrounded by the soothing sounds of the singing bowls, something truly magical happened. A subtle shift in the atmosphere seemed to occur, and suddenly, we saw these mystical lights dancing in the sky above us. At first, it was just a few small orbs of light, but soon it seemed like the entire sky was filled with them, like a celestial ballet unfolding before our eyes. It was a breathtaking sight, and I could feel a sense of wonder and awe washing over me.
The impact that these mystical lights had on us was profound. We all felt a deep sense of connection to something greater than ourselves, and it was like we were being transported to another dimension. It was a reminder that there is so much more to this world than what we can see with our physical eyes, and that there are mysterious and powerful forces at play that we can tap into if we open ourselves up to them. It left us feeling inspired and renewed, and I know that for many of us, it was a transformative experience that we will never forget.
On Monday, we made our way to Xochimilco, a serene ecological reserve. As we stepped onto the colorful trajinera, our eyes feasted on the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. The emerald-green water was adorned with vibrant flowers, and the chirping of birds provided the perfect soundtrack for our journey. Our guide, Ricardo Rodriguez, CEO de la Chinampa, regaled us with fascinating stories about the indigenous people who once inhabited the area and their remarkable sustainable farming techniques. We also learned about the delicate balance of the ecosystem and the need to preserve it for future generations. As we devoured a sumptuous lunch on the boat, we marveled at the delicious flavors and aromas of Mexican cuisine. The flavors of the food, the laughter of our companions, and the magnificent scenery around us created a moment that would stay with us forever. Later that day, we arrived at Casa Gonzalez, a charming bed and breakfast that would be our home for the rest of the week. As we settled into our cozy rooms, we couldn't help but feel excited about the days ahead.
The following day was a whirlwind of activities as we visited the Nacional de Antropología, an impressive museum in Mexico City that showcases the country's rich history and culture. As I walked through the halls of the museum, I was struck by the vast collection of artifacts and exhibits that showcased the different civilizations that once thrived in Mexico. From the pre-Columbian era to the Spanish conquest, the museum provided an in-depth look into the diverse cultures that existed in Mexico before and after colonization. I saw stunning art pieces, ancient tools and weapons, intricate pottery, and even a replica of a Mayan temple. It was truly fascinating to witness the rich history of Mexico come to life through these exhibits. As we sat down for lunch and sharing at the museum, we continued our discussions about sustainability and social entrepreneurship. We were struck by the diverse perspectives of our companions, each with their unique experiences and insights.
As we embarked on our journey towards social entrepreneurship in Mexico, we had the pleasure of visiting New Comienzos, an organization that empowers at-risk youth who have returned to Mexico after living in the United States. This inspiring social enterprise provides comprehensive support to young immigrants who often face social, economic, and cultural challenges when they return to their homeland. We were fortunate to witness firsthand the impact that New Comienzos has had in transforming the lives of these young individuals, equipping them with the skills and resources necessary to thrive in their new environment. It was truly a remarkable experience that reaffirmed our belief in the power of entrepreneurship and social innovation to make a positive impact on society.
On Wednesday, we had the privilege of visiting Gentera Bank with the founder, who shared the incredible story of Gentera Bank and the transformative impact of microfinance in Mexico. We learned about the challenges and opportunities of creating sustainable financial systems that benefit everyone in society. Later that day, we had the pleasure of meeting Molly Fisher, a social entrepreneur and higher education leader at Indiana University who had founded several NGOs and social enterprises in the region. We savored the delicious food at Mixtli Restaurant as we discussed our shared passion for sustainability and social impact. The flavors of the food and the warmth of our companions made us feel like we were part of a big, loving family.
That evening, we had a chat with a politician and activist, a distinguished founder of an anticorruption social group. We had a lively and thought- provoking discussion about the role of entrepreneurship in addressing social and environmental challenges. His passion and conviction left a lasting impression on us all. On Thursday, we visited the National Technological Institute (a university known as ITAM) to learn about circular business models in the fashion industry and to participate in a workshop with ITAM students. We were impressed by the creativity and ingenuity of the students and the innovative solutions they had developed to create a more sustainable fashion industry. We ended the day with a networking event with over 40 Dartmouth alumni and friends, where we relished delicious food and shared our experiences from the week. The energy and enthusiasm of our companions were contagious, and we left feeling inspired and energized.
On Friday, we visited Mano Amiga, a bilingual school that advocates sustainable living and social entrepreneurship. The students welcomed us with open arms and showed us around the school, sharing their projects and ideas for creating a more sustainable future while practicing their English language skills. Mano Amiga was truly a sight to behold: a school that not only educates its students but also advocates sustainable living and social entrepreneurship. The colorful walls and murals adorned with inspiring quotes and messages welcomed us as we entered the school grounds. We were greeted by a group of enthusiastic students who proudly showed us around their school and shared their experiences and learnings with us. A group of young children presented a captivating dance performance for their Spring Festival that left us all in awe. The children, dressed as superheroes, put on a show that highlighted their passion for making a positive impact in the world. As they danced to the beat of the music, we couldn't help but feel their energy and enthusiasm, as they worked together to save the world from various environmental and social issues. Their performance was a testament to the power of youth and the potential they have to create positive change. It was truly inspiring to witness such young individuals taking action and working towards a better future.
As the sun began to set on our final day in Mexico, the musicians from Dartmouth College took the stage at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) and captivated us with their music. The wind ensemble performance by Dartmouth College was truly breathtaking. As the notes from their instruments seemed to float in the air, they blended into a harmonious melody that touched our hearts and souls. As we listened to the music, I couldn't help but think about the power of art and music to bring people together. The wind ensemble was made up of students from all different backgrounds and cultures, yet they were able to create something beautiful together. It was a testament to the fact that when we work together towards a common goal, we can achieve amazing things. As the final notes of the performance faded away, we all stood up and applauded the musicians. It was a moment of pure joy and celebration, and it was the perfect way to end our incredible week in Mexico.
Looking back on the experience, I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of such an inspiring journey. The social entrepreneurship experience tour was not only a chance to learn about sustainable living and social impact, but it was also a chance to connect with people from all over the world who share a passion for creating positive change. As I boarded the plane to return home, I knew that the lessons and experiences from the trip would stay with me forever. I was inspired to continue my journey towards sustainability and to use my skills and resources to make a positive impact in the world. And I was grateful for the reminder that, no matter where we come from, we all have the power to make a difference.