Immersive journeys to help leaders make more impact in the world.

Fueled By Gratitude

January 01st 2013 03:01
Andrea Schubiner is a first year MBA student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. There, she is an active member of the Net Impact Group, Emerging Markets Group, and the Dean’s Student Admissions Committee. Prior to business school, Andrea worked for L’Oreal as a marketing brand manager.
Not your typical New Years
Huddled around a campfire, staring up at a black starry sky, our cohort found ourselves ringing in the New Year in the most unique way. Far from the hustle and bustle of chaotic Mumbai, our group was deep in the mountains, camping out in the rural village of Purushwadi. Instead of indulging in the typical New Years Eve celebrations of nice dinners and fancy parties, we were warming up by a fire as a deep orange, almost full moon slowly rose overhead. We were listening to a one of a kind campfire story. It was the inspiring tale of Inir Pinheiro, founder of Grassroutes Journeys and our gracious host for the evening. 
Experiencing incredible generosity
Inir began his story by affirming the simple truth that people in developing countries are often incredibly welcoming to strangers and almost always ask for nothing in return. We had learned this reality all too well in the hours before when we were welcomed into the homes of three different villagers, all of whom cooked delicious feasts for us in their rustic one room homes. With little more than a few pots and pans and some clothing hanging in a corner, these families welcomed us with open arms to sit on their floors and eat the meals they’d cooked for us. We could barely speak with them due to the language barrier, and yet the families were so kind and heartening. 
Experiencing this generosity was a driving factor for Inir to begin Grassroutes Journeys and it was easy to understand why. In these villages where people have few possessions and work feverishly hard each day to provide food for their families, they are willing to welcome and help complete strangers. Such a humane and compassionate gesture has somehow become so foreign to us in more developed countries. It was completely humbling. 
A way to say thank you
As it has for Inir, this generosity has drawn me to enter the social sector. Being part of a social venture is the only way I can think of to somehow repay the millions of people out there who although I may not have met them yet, would offer me a seat in their house if I ever stumbled their way. Working for a social venture is my pay-it-forward attempt to thank the giving people who live in poverty each day. 
The difficult road to social impact
The road of finding a social impact solution that is successful is a long and difficult one. Inir shared with us the harsh truth that in order to make your dreams come true, you must make sacrifices. You may lose some things in your battle to succeed, and you will probably fail a few times along the way. You may even be your own biggest challenge by questioning yourself and holding yourself back. In addition, others may push you down. Despite these hardships, with determination, persistence, and strong motivation, your dreams can come true and your venture can become a reality. 
Sense of possibility
This truth made me appreciate even more everything that the founders of the social enterprises we have visited have put into their ventures in order for them to have an impact. It has been inspiring to understand not only what all these people have accomplished, but also what they have had to give up in order to get there. It is almost daunting how much risk and sacrifice must be taken in order to follow your dreams. Yet, as the fire raged on, the stars glistened overhead, and 2012 morphed into a new year, the promise of hope seemed to be all around as we sat in Purushwadi living Inir’s dream.  
A few hours later watching the sunrise above the mountains, this hope and inspiration felt even stronger than around the fire. As the blazing red ball crept out of the morning fog and let its rays shine across the lush valley, I felt the sense that anything is possible. I felt proud that our group of ten had set forth not to spend the typical New Years Eve partying in comfortable surroundings, but to be here in rural India dedicated to changing the world. As we sat and welcomed the first daylight of 2013, I couldn’t help but feel possibility, optimism, and assurance in the wind. We may have long paths ahead of us, but we are all certainly on the right journey to ensure change.