“What are you going to do now?” That was the question I heard in every conversation, over the past year! I was so busy organizing events, preparing for my exams, spending time with the friends I was not going to see so often anymore, that the question became rather annoying. After graduation, it was difficult to say goodbye to so many of my friends.  Leaving LSE, after two years of the MPA felt like an end of an era to me. The MPA years shaped my professional self, challenged many of my views, broadened my horizons and introduced me to wonderful people, people I admire and look up to. After some travel, the question everyone was asking started to make sense. I finally realized I have come to the point, the point I had been waiting for since I was 16.

I was 15 years old when I was sent to Germany for a year, to learn more about the culture of my Grandparents and to rediscover the roots of my family. It was the moment to explore the old world, or at least so I thought. It was the year of the German Summer Dream of 2006; everything seemed new, problem free and possible. I felt free and part of a world where everyone was able to achieve their dreams due to welfare and a culture of respect for others. It was the romantic view of Europe, from the eyes of a young Colombian.

One year later, I was sitting in the car with my family after we had dinner and driving home through Bogota. The streets were filled with heavy traffic and the night was cold and full of indifference. From the comfort of our car, we saw a family outside by the road sitting together. We couldn’t stop staring. We asked why were they there on the side of the road? And why doesn’t anyone care? Everyone was just passing by as if they were part of the landscape, which I found quite a scary thought. That was the moment, where I decided to dedicate my life to those without a voice

My time in Germany showed me that inequality and poverty is a reality we can escape from. The contrast between the German Summer Dream of 2006 and the cold rainy nights that people have to spend in Bogota, opened my eyes. Since then, I chose to dedicate my academic career to the poor, the helpless, and the unheard.

A trip to Senegal reminded me of my motivation. It was a part of a class at LSE where I consulted a Social Enterprise, Waste and Hope. Once I arrived there, without speaking their language and travelling on the back of a motorbike for hours, I was reminded of the choice I made so many years ago – to help people. Plastic collectors showed us their homes, told us how much it means for them to have a job that protects the environment. They are proud of picking the plastic and bring it to our recycling facility, and they should be.

Waste and Hope is a Social Enterprise, that stops plastic from getting into the ocean or leaking into the environment. A Social Enterprise that works with more than 2000 plastic collectors, providing them with access to a better quality of life. Most of the collectors are women and they have barely finished primary school. With Waste and Hope, they are not only the first ones to produce fair traded plastic and the guardians of the oceans along the Senegalese coast, they have dedicated their lives to leave the planet better than how they found it.

I have a message to the graduating Class of 2017:

Dear MPAers,

Now that graduation has arrived, don’t forget why you have been doing all this, remember what you wanted to achieve with it. Remember your personal statement from the application and go back to your roots before you take the next step. The LSE MPA and so the MPAers is above a good job at a Fortune 500 company, it is about preparing people to work for the greater good, to achieve welfare and equity for all.

I put myself through a lot of pressure and stress because I wanted to belong to the best, the best people doing good for others and Waste & Hope is my way to do it, what is yours?

Best wishes,

Ingrid von Schiller

 Ingrid von Schiller graduated from the LSE MPA Class of 2016. She works for Waste and Hope, a social enterprise based in Senegal. They are currently fundraising to support their work. Find out more about their fundraising efforts on their GoFundMe page.