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This past July, I landed at Baltra’s Galapagos airport with an unusual level of anticipation. I go to the Galapagos every quarter but this time it was different. Our 2013 Class of Agents of Change was graduating and I could not wait to rejoin the group and help them prepare before their last challenge: The Panel Presentation. Six months of arduous work had gone by. As a result, six initiatives to implement sustainable social change had emerged from the group and were ready to be presented to the Puerto Ayora community. How could I not be excited? The truth is I was ecstatic for I could sense what it must feel like for these youth to truly be the difference.
Our mission at Lonesome George & Co. has always been Outfitting Agents of Change and we do this in two ways:
First and most obvious, we do it via our apparel brand and the messages printed on our products. We Care, Cycle into Change, World Map, and Lonesome George, the famous conservation icon and our inspiration, are among our flagship designs. We aim to inspire our conscious consumers to believe in the changemaker spirit within and take action in their daily lives.
The second way our company is fulfilling its mission is via The Academy of Agents of Change. As you already know, The Academy is an education program funded by 10% of all sales from Lonesome George & Co. The Academy is where the leverage to create real community change is. You see, Outfitting entails not only clothing an individual but also, and more importantly, it is the act of equipping someone for any purpose – mentally, physically, or morally. The Academy of Agents of Change is all about building character using Outward Bound and developing social entrepreneurial skills using Ashoka’s Youth Venture. Our goal is to empower young leaders to MIND their choices, SHIFT their mental models, and IMPACT their communities.
As I regrouped with our 2013 Class later that morning, the intense energy in the room was palpable. I take a moment to absorb what I am witnessing. These are all young, fifteen to eighteen year-old boys and girls from different high schools in Puerto Ayora, a community of 20,000 people in the Galapagos. They are all working on final touches to their initiatives – making sure they can clearly communicate the problem they have identified, explain the solution they have come up with, objectively share the data they have collected, explain a scale model of the initiative, outline their implementation objectives, and finally prove the sustainability of the model. Wow! I feel so proud for each of them as they’ve come a long way, but there is no time to lose; I role up my sleeves and dive into the room to help where I can.
The Panel goes beautifully the following morning. Each Agent of Change diligently presents and supports his/her initiative before the panelists and, later that evening, before the Puerto Ayora Community. As I watched them present to the community, I slowly started grasping the pillars of the Academy in each of them: leadership, resourcefulness, respect to nature, respect to others, respect to yourself, teamwork, and above all, compassion. They are off now to implement their initiatives and impact their surroundings wherever they go.
The Army of Agents of Change is growing. Look for us, join us, be the difference.
Eduardo Balarezo, Founder & CEO – Lonesome George & Co.