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Of how Celei found it’s path

Celei was always an incredible learning opportunity for me. I could say I grew up in the school. The possibilities it had offered me were first clear to me when I got that call 7 years ago from the founders, saying they needed a hand to keep it open. It was at that moment when I realized I had friends all over the world and my thinking processes had been influenced by many different cultures, giving me, without me even realizing it, a broader perspective than any of my friends back home. In addition, I have been fluent in English since before I can remember. It was too good to let the opportunity go.

Things did not become easier after that. We were understaffed and couldn’t compete with huge institutions and corporations in a world where all we want is to get the best price possible for the products and services we consume. We were very good Study Abroad providers, having been an SIT site for over two decades, but we believed in small groups, personalized attention and good working conditions and salaries for our teachers and collaborators. These ideals were keeping us away from competitive prices in today’s market and it was solely out of hope and stubbornness that we managed to stay open.

And then the crisis struck. The violent Covid outbreak in Wuhan was taking over the world and traveling was being cancelled or prohibited everywhere. For a small international school, dependent on foreignh students to work, it should have spelled the end. And for a couple of months even I believed that. Then something wonderful happened. In a matter of weeks I came across Daniel Wahl’s Designing Regenerative Cultures and Simon Sinek’s Why Leaders Eat Last. It is hard to describe how in a matter of weeks I went from feeling totally insecure about the future of Celei to knowing it had never been brighter. For the first time in my life I had the right words to communicate to others the kind of laboral culture Celei was proposing and for once in my life I had a clear Why. A purpose. I wanted to teach and learn about Regenerative Culture.

To my surprise, the excitement about this idea wasn’t only mine, but it spread like wildfire in a community of outstanding professionals, regenerators in their own fields, that, for once, had time in their daily lives. People were inspired and happy to hear about a group of young, idealistic educators who were trying to rebuild their school in order to speak about ecological restoration, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, social justice or community. Professionals with over 20 years of experience in their fields started volunteering for the school drawn by the culture they saw among us and, in a matter of months, I saw myself surrounded by an incredible team that allowed us to do things we had never been able to do before.

I was sure I knew how to find and share the kind of experiences that could open students’ minds to new ideas or motivate them to action. I have traveled around the world trying to expand my horizons, learn about different and more sustainable ways of living, and find myself and the person I wanted to be by learning from other cultures. It has always been clear to me that traveling, when done with a hungry mind or led by people that understand the unique learning possibilities it can offer, can change a person forever. Now, after a long and difficult transition, Celei has an outstanding team that can guide those experiences, debates and reflections across a wide variety of social and ecological topics. It is clear to us that the world is changing fast nowadays and that education must adapt if we want to be able to meet the new challenges a world that is ever increasing in complexity, presents us today.

However, the opportunities are also great. Since we reformulated our mission, we have discovered, with great pleasure, that it is many of us around the world that move and work to make our small contribution to a more fair, sustainable and tolerant world. Luckily, “developed” societies are becoming more and more aware that a lot of their discomfort comes from the disinformation and incongruences of their daily lives/realities/cultures and are keen to learn and take action to start contributing to help build more regenerative cultures. This is perfect because experts have been defending for years that nature needs this mentality shift urgently if we are to revert some of the destruction processes our ecosystems have endured in the past century. Furthermore, people and institutions are eager to collaborate and make their own contributions to the shift from a competitive individualistic culture to a more conscious culture, at peace with the environment. At Celei we want to make sure we are on this side of the struggle and we are taking advantage of our privileged position to make a real impact on the communities and natural landscapes we work with.

Antonio Gutiérrez, 
CVO of
Celei Regenerative Education

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