Testimony of Thibaut Cantet, Sciences Po student, after his internship at GK Enchanted Farm
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Testimony of Thibaut Cantet, Sciences Po student, after his internship at GK Enchanted Farm

       Hi everyone, I’m Thibaut, I spent half a year at the GK Enchanted Farm a couple of years ago, and am here to share some of the insights I gained from it and also in a way, how it’s changed my life for ever. Long story short, I assisted 3 students of the educational arm of GK, their School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (commonly called SEED), in launching a dairy social enterprise aiming at generating revenues for them and improving the living conditions of dairy farmers in the region by trading with them in a more equitable way.

I could tell you a lot about all the professional skills this experience has allowed me to acquire, as I’ve already started doing during job interviews:

Sure, finding a reliable supplier, designing the recipe for cheese making in a country with terrible climate for dairy, working out the packaging, organising the chaotic finances, taking care of the different selling events, in a country I knew very little about, and where projects move forward in extremely different ways than back home, all were very valuable experiences from the perspective of my professional career building.

 

         But this isn’t really the topic of today: what really shaped me the most, and what most of the time I can’t share during these job interviews, was the path I had to take to overcome the patronising posture most would have when being in such a position. Learning how to be a genuine partner with my students, how to help them grow up without undermining their self confidence, how to overcome my own insufficiencies to be the role model that would help them flourishing, wasn’t an easy task. But the transformation I saw in my behaviour was as surprising as astonishing.

More generally, being part of the Gawad Kalinga journey was full of valuable teachings. What stroke me the most was the joy which drove all of the people fueling the movement. It wasn’t that they were sacrificing themselves to a higher purpose: the cause was themselves, because they were realising their own higher purpose by dedicating their life to what they believed was right. It seemed like the hidden and magical dimension of life was finally unveiled in front of me, and I would never be able to unsee what I have seen then. These selfless men and women, some of which came from exactly the same privileged background as I did, helped me seeing clearer about what kind of man I wanted to become.     

I also realised there that poverty wasn’t only a matter of economics, and that the power of hope, dreams and community built around love opened endless possibilities, that science and theories of all kind never could have imagined.

Now, for those who will volunteer for GK, or any other organisation working at the grassroot level, I don’t really have anything to say as I am sure your experience will be much more meaningful than any speech you might hear. But I’m very aware that a lot of you here aren’t planning to volunteer for GK or anywhere else for the matter, so let’s expand the topic a little bit.

 

        It is so easy to forget about the reality of our world, even for us, the millenial generation in search for meaning as our elders like calling us. While most now agree that there should be more to pursue than social status, shiny cars and cheap thrills, the danger of giving up to the crazy and never depleted pursuit of ultimate comfort will always be there. No matter how many inspiring TED talks we watch, how many late night conversations we have with friends about which political party should be in power for the world to change, or how many new concepts we learn about development in emerging countries. It’ll never come anywhere near the everlasting intensity of the raw experience of love, compassion and solidarity with other human beings.

To seek enlightenment, intellectual or spiritual; to do good; to love and be loved; to create and to teach. If there is meaning in life, it lies there. Those who graduate from the leading universities have more opportunity than most to find such purpose, and yet very few will ever even try to achieve the grand creative projects they planned before graduating. As for me, allowing myself to be touched so deeply in my humanity has proven to be a very efficient firewall against the siren songs of anything out of sync with the highest purposes of humankind. Not a single day goes without asking myself : Why do we work so hard to develop our technologies and human genius ? Why do we do what we do? Why do we live, in a way?

While I will never have the definite answer, I will always be grateful for organisations like GK which allow young students to ask themselves this question relentlessly. They are for sure making the world a huge favour and I would like to say thank all of them for that.

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