Every month we are looking to interview an alumnus to share their story with the online community and Schumacher worldwide network.. and we would love to hear your story!!
This month Camila Rocha shares about her field research time in Kenya for her thesis and some interesting insights. Beautifully she also shares from a deep space about going back to a big city life with all the values learnt from the college and how that is to live the right livelihood there.
Come and experience Camila's journey and thoughts through her eyes...
Name : Camila Rocha
Location : Brazil, her thesis research in Kenya
Q: What course(s) did you attend at Schumacher College, which years have you been involved and how closely connected are you to the college now?
I have attended MA E4T 17/18. I am fortunate enough to have a close-knit community back home, connecting both Schumacher College and Escola Schumacher Brasil alumni.
Q: Looking back, how did your time at the college most influence your life?
That is a very deep and personal question. I think I am still processing and making sense of everything that happened. It is not automatic. Sometimes I think that I have already returned to my “old life”, but in fact it is not possible. For me Schumacher College is about discovering a new way of “being in the world”. It needs time to unfold so that I can see the direct influence in my routine.
Q: What has been your biggest take away from your time at Schumacher College?
I am now able to look things from a wider perspective. Before Schumacher College, I have worked with social businesses in Brazil for a decade. Most of that time, I was an employee for major not-for-profits organizations. In fact, I have never understood why the not-for-profits/ charities/ social business approach was so desperately needed. I was dealing with the world’s most pressing problems, however, I have never stopped to question the origin of such problems. The reality is that after my time at the college, I realized that I was working to put a Band-Aid upon the wounds. Nevertheless, once you start using the complexity and systems thinking lenses, everything changes. I can say that my biggest take away was not “what to do”, but “how we do” things differently. Being fully present at the moment, acknowledging my privileges, stopping to be a control freak and respecting the time to things to emerge are among the shifts I carried with me. I started to not only question the system but also to find ways forward. Then this hit me like a ripple effect. I started questioning the system and went until the deepest and hardest layers of myself. It is all connected. It is not an easy task to become accountable for what happens in the world, but at the same time, I learnt that things could change, better than that, I can change things and I know that we can make it together. So, stepping into situations, taking the lead has become inevitable.
Q: What have you done since leaving the college and what are you doing now? What has led you to this point.
After 8 months as a College resident, I decided to leave for the dissertation period. The 1st stop was Kenya. I went by myself for 1 month to do the field research for my thesis. I was very attentive to social entrepreneurship (my area of activity over the last decade) and women's empowerment grassroots movement (I felt I needed to dive in and feel it from different angles).
It was all very difficult. I was living with Kenyans and could confront all the theories we learnt in Economics with the real life, I mean by real life people who are most affected by our system. I questioned myself daily. 'What did I come here for? "I just wanted to leave, but not before I bought a gift for my mother. At the end of the trip, I stopped at a factory that makes women's jewellery out of clay to generate income for underserved women, especially single mothers. Single mothers like my mother. The narrative was perfect for my dissertation and could also buy something in the end.
When I arrived at the factory, I first went to the store and wanted to buy everything! The products were amazing. Then I visited the factory, talked to the women artists responsible for such beauty. I was fascinated! Before I left, I had this intuition. “Do you export this incredible jewellery?! Can I work with you?” I received back a giant smile and a resounding, “Let’s make it happen!” I asked for a time, because I still had to work on my dissertation. Since I came back to Brazil, I have been working to launch this beautiful African brand in my home country and can already envision KAZURI in different countries.
KAZURI’s factory in Kenya has a British owner, I have to import and export the jewellery through airmail, and these are things that keep me thinking - what extent am I really creating a positive impact? I do not have an answer for that, but selling jewellery is not an end itself. Through KAZURI I found the means to have important conversations, Such as African presence in the world and globalization, the art and importance of handcrafted goods, products lifespan and who are we empowering with our money, slow fashion, etc. The world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Therefore, this is just a new beginning and we will see what is about to emerge.
Q: How are you living your livelihood “right livelihood”? Expressing yourself in the world?
I always had this idea that in order to live the right livelihood, one would have to move to a community, become vegan and commute by bike. Let’s be real! I live in a big city (and love it), I come from a mainstream family, I have mainstream friends and I also feel part of them. I think there is no coincidence that I passed through this life-changing experience and had to come back home. Although I know how it feels awkward arriving home from the college, I realized this massive opportunity to influence people around me to create change, and that is only because I have changed a lot myself. Therefore, my daily attitudes, thoughts, decisions and actions cannot be the same. I can now start important conversations; question the information delivered by the media; bring to the awareness hidden concepts of our automatic lifestyle which is completely influenced by the system we live at. In June, I am also launching in Brazil (together with my Schumie friends Eliza Hostin and Paula Ferreira) the Masters elective and short course “Changing the Frame”. These are all things I could not even imagine possible couple of years ago.
The right livelihood, in fact, has to make sense for each of us. I do not think there is a formula. So how am I living my own "right livelihood"? Perhaps by continuing to find out who I really am and questioning the world, revealing my weaknesses and being kind and generous to myself, taking small actions toward a more just and sustainable world and not hating myself when I eventually drink a bottle of bottled water. In this lifelong quest for wholeness, that I put myself at, it is a step at a time. I have chosen a very ambiguous path and it is easy to get lost and feel guilty in the midst of this complex real life.