What Led Me To Do What I Do
By Sariaka Rakotondrazafy
Social Enterprise Impacting Lives through Opportunities or SEILO is my dream come true. I have always dreamt of creating an organization where people can grow and help others thrive in a sustainable way. Today, I have been asked what has led me to do what I do and there are so many reasons. Although, if I have to choose one word to summarize my response, I would definitely say “passion”: my passion to make a difference in others’ lives. I used to feel a little emptiness that could only be filled when I helped or supported someone in some ways: giving them my time to listen to what they have in mind or just being by their side, sharing experience, knowledge or advice, as well as giving financial or material gifts and so on. Now that I don’t feel that little blankness anymore, I am convinced that SEILO was one of the Almighty’s plans for me. Besides, there was a time I was praying for vision from God and I received “social enterprise” as answer.
I also love to travel. This passion of mine led me to see distant parts of the world and many places in Madagascar, my home country. Madagascar is proof that you can see extreme inequality in respect to wealth, income and opportunity for people in the same country. I have a background in environmental science, used to work for Non Governmental Organizations and governmental projects and have learned that Madagascar is an extremely important biodiversity hotspot. Scientists estimate that about 90% of the plants on Madagascar are endemic, while about 85% of animals are endemic. My academic, professional and holiday trips have exposed me to the real beauty of Madagascar. Sadly, they have also revealed another factor that we have known and seen in our daily lives: high level of poverty. The level of poverty seemed to be more obvious in rural and coastal areas for reasons such as the lack of proper infrastructure, adequate technology, educational opportunities, and basic healthcare. I am particularly concerned about poverty because I grew up in a low-income family myself. It was not until later when my parents’ efforts into our education paid off and our careers improved. This helped us to increase our quality of life.
In conjunction with its economic development limitations, Madagascar’s natural resources suffer from multi-source degradation. Madagascar's major environmental problems include: deforestation and habitat destruction, agricultural fires; erosion and soil degradation; over exploitation of living resources, introduction of alien species, and unsustainable land management practices. Similarly, Canada encounters different types of environmental issues including air and water pollution, climate change, mining and logging. Being a witness of such destruction that may lead to a tragedy for the future generations is part of why I created SEILO. SEILO is also a way for me to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I am especially focused on or interested in the following SDGs: (1) No Poverty, (2) Zero Hunger, (5) Gender Equality, (10) Reducing Inequality, (13) Climate Action, (14) Life Below Water, (15) Life On Land, (17) Partnerships for the Goals.
My passion for environmental awareness and community support is the main motivation behind my efforts with the SEILO team. I was looking for a way to combine environmental protection with community empowerment and the concept of creating a social enterprise matched my expectations and would allow me to reach the goals I deemed necessary to achieve a measurable impact.
There were times when how to launch my dream idea was unclear. Then I received a fellowship award from the United Nations and Nippon Foundation of Japan Fellowship Programme in November of 2018. I believe it to be one of the most prestigious fellowships in the world and feel honoured to have been awarded it. The training at DOALOS and research work at Saint Mary’s University, hosted by the Community Conservation Research Network, as part of the programme helped me to have more confidence in myself and starting my project. They also shaped and made my vision clearer. Many thanks to the wonderful teams at the UNNF, DOALOS, CCRN and Saint Mary’s University!
I also have to thank the YWCA based in Halifax. I was auditing one of their inspiring programmes called Business builders (Entrepreneurship hub). It aims to support aspiring women entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses. I gained a lot of knowledge and learned practical instructions on how to become an entrepreneur. I did not have any experience in the entrepreneurship world and feel this experience was a valuable one. SEILO exists today because of the skills and support that I gained from that programme, our programme coordinator, and other participants. My teachers, my classmates, my colleagues and all the people I’ve met or known are to be thanked as well, as they influenced my personality, experience and skills. My family, my partner and friends also played a great role in encouraging me to launch this social enterprise in despite of the pandemic. I am also extremely grateful for our volunteers who are all so inspiring. I would like to extend my appreciations to our supporters and partners that help us going forward through the challenges of the effects of the pandemic. Last but not least, I would also thank my Lord and Savior J.C without whom none of this would be possible.
If you wish to join our team or support our work in any other means, I would like to invite you to check our website https://www.ilo-socialenterprise.com/ and follow us on social media.
The blog is part of the DevelopMEnt Blog Series launched during International Development Week. The blog series aims to highlight stories, journeys, and perspectives of people associated with the development sector. It also aims to highlight how journeys, shaped by the knowledge and experience our guest authors have amassed, has helped, and can help shape the world. Any views and opinions expressed in the blogs are of the guest authors