Leveraging partnerships to drive impact – The story of Nadine Souto

(Photo: Nadine at UWCCR NC regional meeting in 2014)

Collaboration and teamwork are central to accomplishing goals in any field, and sustainability is no exception. Our alumna Nadine Souto (2006-2008) illustrated the importance of building good partnerships for scaling the impact of sustainability initiatives in a recent interview on her UWC experience. In addition to being involved with the UWC movement in various capacities, Nadine is a sustainability expert and has worked with local, national and international teams on projects related to environment and climate change.

“I support international cooperation and policy for sustainable forest management at the United Nations. Before my current role, I worked on environment, natural resource management and development in different capacities. I worked on climate action for a local government in Portugal. Mainly, we were implementing internationally funded projects at the local levels to improve sustainability and climate outcomes. I have also been a consultant for the UN in Kenya,” shares Nadine.

Nadine’s passion for mobilizing individuals and communities to work towards setting and realizing sustainability targets was cultivated by formative experiences at MUWCI. “MUWCI was my first encounter with sustainability and environmentalism,” observes Nadine. “The outdoor opportunities were a significant part of my experience there, including all the hiking opportunities around the Mulshi Valley. I was part of the environmental protection activity where we did a simple exercise on paper recycling where we took newspapers and folded them into bags, which were probably used in the kitchens for composting. I also remember removing invasive species from some hill areas around the biodiversity reserve, which was inaugurated when I was studying at MUWCI. We would also dig small dams during the dry season to collect water during the rainy season. Gaining all of this exposure to sustainability values and ideas at MUWCI greatly impacted me. It set me on the path in my current work on forest and sustainable resource management with the UN.”

Nadine opened up on how living in a multicultural environment influenced her personal views. “I think that living in such proximity with people from different backgrounds at such a young age had a huge influence,” reveals Nadine. She adds, “At MUWCI, I met people from different political convictions, cultural and religious backgrounds, and sexual orientations. In 2006, I remember being on a bus in Pune, sitting next to a Canadian co-year who said he does drag. That was the first time I had met anybody who did that. Later, while doing Global Affairs, some of our most charged and interesting discussions would happen on ideas that many of us had not even remotely thought about. You might have a specific stance and then confront these different views. That was informative in revealing who each person was and where they stood on various issues, as well as understanding that things are rarely black-and-white.”

Reflecting on how her values encouraged her interest in pursuing change through community mobilization, Nadine shares her insights on one of the activities she was part of. “Learning was a two-way street, so as students, we would go to different places and engage in activities with the community. I remember going to schools in Pune and conducting sessions around the de-stigmatization of HIV. We would also go to an orphanage for HIV children and play with the kids there. I remember thinking critically about the kids forming bonds with us when we would be gone within a year while also considering how we were creating an impact while safeguarding the children’s well-being. As someone who now works in international development, I understood early on that it is not enough to just have good intentions. There needs to be capacity, a certain amount of reckoning with privilege, the sharing of responsibilities, and a bottom-up approach. These things are all a part of how I approach my work currently.”

When sharing her most significant achievement with us, Nadine discusses her experiences working with the National Committee of Venezuela. “I worked as the executive director when the situation in Venezuela was challenging: there was social unrest, political instability, three-digit inflation, and we were trying to keep the NC running through all of this. I was lucky to be part of an involved team of alumni, parents, and volunteers. During the pandemic, a group of alumni living abroad, former NC executive board members and volunteers came together and revamped the entire selections process for the NC to be able to operate online. I am really proud to be part of that community since together we have helped to keep the UWC dream alive for Venezuelans during a very difficult period.”

Nadine reflects on how her scholarship helped motivate her to collaborate with others. “I do not think I could have ever had access to the UWC experience without my scholarship. From working with the National Committee and my own experiences, I know that scholarships open the door to an education of quality. Not just gaining access to the IB program and the opportunities that open up after that are truly beyond the means of many students who study at UWC, but it is also the UWC added values that a student benefits from throughout the rest of their lives. My experience taught me about independence, responsibility and accountability, and for that I am truly grateful.”

We want to take this opportunity to thank Nadine for sharing her story with us and wish her the very best for her future.


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