Ana Eseverri Mayer. Sociologist and social entrepreneur. CEO at Lea Global Pathways and founder of the NGO AIPC Pandora
“If you have the ability to change young people, you have the ability to change the world”
TEXT: CRISTINA BISBAL
Born in Boston 49 years ago, Ana Esverri Mayer has triple American, Spanish and French nationality. With these credentials, we could almost say that she was born with a suitcase under her arm. From a young age, travel has been part of her life. She studied sociology and went on to become a lecturer in this subject at London Metropolitan University. But a university trip and a reflection, years later, made her change the way she was leading her life, make a 180-degree turn and dedicate herself to supporting mobility and volunteering among young people.
How did the idea of setting up the NGO AIPC Pandora come about?
Actually, it’s an idea that has been there, waiting for me, since I was 20 years old, when I traveled with the university where I was studying to Guatemala to live for three months with a Chorti community on the border with Honduras. We ran a very nice women’s aid program. I loved that experience and when I started working as a lecturer at London Metropolitan University I began to send groups of volunteers to that same community in Guatemala.
That was the seed of the idea, but the actual start was a long time coming, wasn’t it?
Yes, it was. A few years later, when I had moved to Spain, I decided to dedicate less time to myself and more time to others and set up this NGO. It is specifically aimed at giving young people this type of international experience, so that they can discover the world, open their minds and be happier. And it is clear to me that this type of experience does make you much happier, because it takes you out of your comfort zone. In addition, you help others, which is a very important bonus.
Is your goal global education?
Yes, the goal is to educate young people, from all walks of life, as global citizens of this world. With each trip, each experience, and each opportunity, these young people broaden their outlook. And that is why, at AIPC Pandora, we embrace different activities. For example, we send young people aged between 13 and 18 years old to volunteer around the world, to places like Thailand, Tanzania, Nepal, Morocco… In their three weeks there they gain international experience, they are integrated into the community, live in the homes of volunteers or local families, and work with local NGOs. Suddenly their world is not just their own friends, and they see that there are all kinds of religions and cultures. In the almost 20 years we have been in operation, we have sent nearly 15,000 students.
All our activities allow us to support various scholarship programs in training and leadership, so that young people without resources can also access these experiences. Through the European Solidarity Corps, for example, an initiative of the European Union, we offer young people the opportunity to work as volunteers or collaborate on projects, either in their own countries or abroad. And we also have a scholarship program where we work with excellent young people who are at risk of social exclusion and give them the opportunity to go much further in their education. We take care of their education from the 4th grade of secondary school until we deliver them to the best universities.
Have any of these cases been particularly rewarding?
Lots of them, but a couple I would like to highlight are those of Rofaida, a young woman originally from Morocco, currently enrolled in ICADE; and Ismael, a boy under the protection of the Community of Madrid who is studying psychology. The two of them have started a project on their own, Nadie a Juniembre, a support network of volunteer teachers who help young people from immigrant backgrounds to pass their exams. I firmly believe that if you have the ability to change young people, you have the ability to change the world.