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Mariana Lemos

What else can I do for the people around me?

12 August 2020
When I was invited to write about volunteering, its importance in my life and my participation in the jury of JA Europe Company of the year Competition 2020, I couldn’t help remembering that this contribution for Sonae’s social responsibility projects began in 2018 as an ambassador to Escola Missão Continente, where I had the chance to approach matters that had to do with food and healthy lifestyles with 1st grade children.

I went on getting involved in several initiatives, from reforestation to Braço Direito and, in the beginning of 2019, I began my collaboration with Junior Achievement Portugal’s programme. Having already done voluntary work at personal level, to be able to accommodate it with my daily job means a great part of the process, and to do it in representation of Sonae becomes gratifying and enriching.

This year, in the middle of a pandemic, I was invited to be one of Sonae’s juries at JA Europe Company of the year Competition 2020. Junior Achievement is a global organisation for education in entrepreneurship, which in Portugal means all the work developed with children and young people to boost their future success. In "The Company” programme, high school students are challenged to create and manage a mini-company throughout a schoolyear. In this competition, which occurred online between the 22nd and the 24th July, students from all over Europe (pre-selected nationally) raced for the prize of best mini-company, as well as for other prestigious awards such as Sonae Social Entrepreneurship Award. I had the pleasure of sharing with Mariana Valença (Sonae Fashion) and Tânia Calçada (Sonae MC) this experience, which meant the assessment of 40 reports and pitches, choosing the top them teams, interviewing them and electing our winner, SIGMA, with Aquasense.

It was a unique and inspiring experience. To feel we can have an impact of these young people’s future and see how they fought to develop an innovative concept with a clear social and environmental impact, to watch their enthusiasm and verify their vast knowledge, all of this before they reach the job market, was definitely unforgettable. I learned not to underestimate 14-year-olds’ analytical and creative abilities (yes, some participants are 14 years old!), understood the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship and its ability to change the life and future of these young women and men and I earned a perspective on what I would like to henceforth transmit to young people that cross their paths with mine.

I would like to thank Sonae for the invitation and the honour of participating in this event, and here is my commitment to getting involved in future projects, as I know we have a vast potential to continue being an example of social entrepreneurial responsibility.

I would also like to challenge all my colleagues to place themselves the following question: What else can I do for the people around me? I believe that if all of us dedicate some of our time to others (even if just once a year) we can make this world a better place.

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