This story was submitted to the Ashoka 30th Birthday Card by Paula Cardenau, one of Ashoka's senior staff members in Latin America, who is also spearheading Ashoka's Social Business Initiative. Paula initially wrote this letter as an email to the Fellows and staff in Latin America on the occasion of her 10th anniversary at Ashoka in 2010.
I started working at Ashoka 10 years ago - incredible, isn't it?! And the most important thing these last 10 years is meeting so many special and wonderful people like each of you. This is what I want to celebrate this year.

To each of you, I thank you very deeply for being a major part of my Ashoka decade. How privileged I have been to share this journey with you, to be part of this fight for a world filled with more opportunities for all. You taught me never, ever, to give up or stop dreaming or stop flying. You showed me that if we are not able to discard the prejudices that separate us from the "others", the "different", we will never wholly be. That only when all of us - the poor, gays, indigenous, fat, bullied, unemployed, abused women and children, deaf, people with disabilities, slave children, “colifatos”, malnourished, blind, people with Down Syndrome - can be full citizens, we will be able to say that we are all in this together. That if we want to change a system, it is useless to do it from the outside; you still need to keep one foot inside to be able to influence it properly. That the sustainability of organizations is not what matters; what matters is the sustainability of the change those organizations actually generate. That there's nothing like a good laugh to bring a bit of healing levity when reality becomes too harsh. That it is worthwhile committing your life to a dream. You all make the impossible possible. Hey, now this is already becoming an Oscar speech, and I feel that I haven´t even started to express what these years have meant to me. I believe that most important of all, you have challenged me to become a better woman. For that, Thank you!

As I thought about each of you included in this message, thousands of images started flashing in my mind: special moments shared, meetings, Fellow orientations, hugs, mate tea, wine, laughter, dreams, tears, arguments, clasped hands, indignation at injustice, ideologies, commitment. But you know all this, you were there. At the Araucaria hugs and barefoot walks in freezing Patagonian rivers to meet Mother Earth; at my first Fellow Orientation in Cololó, Uruguay, where it seemed at first that we would not be able to make it due to a flooded river; and when we actually made it, how tarot card reading became crucial to facilitating the discussion.

And the incredible image that I will cherish forever in my heart: all of us in a circle at the Latin America "All Fellows" meeting. It conveys energy, identity, commitment, love and above all, possibilities. There are so many amazing stories that at some point I could certainly write a book, so I will not bore you anymore. But it makes me think: cuanta cosa linda.

This article was originally published on 9 January 2012

More For You