Said Farah Ceh
My Pitzer Experience, Social Circles and Social Learning
It has now been six years since I decided to apply to a Pitzer College exchange program. At that time this meant enjoyment but in the process, I gained knowledge that would help me in my professional career. However, I did not know that this experience would completely change the course of my life, not only academically but also physically and spiritually.
Upon arriving at Pitzer, I found myself in a different kind of higher institution than I was used to. A place filled with greenery, a college with a hen house and an organic garden, a gorgeous fountain, a dining room which used organic food residue to produce compost, and groups of students sun bathing in the shadow of the California mountains. The people of the college were friendly and what was most important was that all the students together formed a beautiful rainbow of myriad colors, cultural backgrounds and social distinctions, different points of view and thought patterns. Everyone was ready to give me a place inside of this community, but all on the condition that I as well would contribute to changing the world.
The months passed and my friendships at Pitzer were strengthened to the point where I had the opportunity to live in New York and San Francisco. I got to know many of the states of the USA and I also was a guest in different countries around the world. Yet the most meaningful event was in 2010 when more than 10 of these friends were at my wedding. This showed me that this group of friends was not a common crowd of acquaintances but they were a great social network in real life, a group of true friends.
Having a diverse group of friends from different parts of the world made me have a more global awareness about how small actions could impact my immediate community and catalyze a change worldwide. From this moment on I started to be concerned about caring for the natural environment and for the development of my immediate community. I also developed a thought process less centered on me but rather focused on supporting the vulnerable communities around me and leaders interested in community development.
From Entrepreneur to Social Entrepreneur
Achieving some of the most important goals in my life, like a job in a prestigious institution, living with a very special person whom I admire, and being satisfied with who I am, I still felt that something important was missing in my life. The missing parts were a touch of freshness, liberty and renewal. The new challenges in front of me were to learn how to utilize and implement the new information that I had gained, the friendships I had made, and the social awareness for the care of the natural environment in order to make changes inside my community.
At that time the only thing I had was a bicycle I called Mabuhay, very little money, and a recipe from my grandma. Nevertheless, I had a strong yearning to get to know new people, hear their stories, and a desire that they would hear mine too. I sought this each day in order to feel renewed. I wanted to share a little happiness in each bite of my product.
This is why I began fashioning caramelized nuts. I added a container to the back of my bike and I carried 12 jars of mixed caramelized nuts that my Grandma once showed me how to prepare. I went out into the streets to offer them to the people, with the chance that they would taste them and find them good enough to pay for them.
After a couple of weeks, 12 jars were not enough. The demand had grown, so I began to sell 240 every month, but seeing the success that the nuts were having, I thought: “This is an excellent way to generate change in my community”, so I started to put messages inside the jars like “smile at a stranger”, “buy in local shops”, “reuse the packaging from this product”, “become a volunteer in some non-profit organization”, etc. I was thinking that this would be good medium to, through small actions, start a change in the local community. If everyone did these doable projects then our world would be much better off.
As the months continued the production kept increasing. The caramelized nuts and the messages reached hundreds of people. My next move in my social contribution, as a responsible entrepreneur, was to donate a percentage of the monthly profit that I earned to the small non-profits; only the non-profits where exceptional true community leaders were willing to give their lives and time in order to make this world a better place to live.
Currently I have a monthly production of more than 600 jars of nuts, packed in glass containers in order to avoid the use of plastic. They are homemade crafts and they are delivered exclusively via my bike, this is to support a reduction in carbon emissions. Now that I am conscious that I am a part of a global community and that I am giving myself actively to this community, I can honestly say that I have achieved a new peak in my life.
Said Farah Ceh
Said Farah Ceh lives in Merida, Mexico. He came to Pitzer College on exchange from the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan, Mexico. In spring 2013 he joined Pitzer students as part of a team led by Professor Emeritus Jose Calderon to La Paz, Mexico for an alternative spring break focusing on social justice projects.