Focus on two IÉSEG students’ gap year project in the Philippines

Plastic Flamingo

Photo Credits: Plastic Flamingo

Two IÉSEG Master students (Grande Ecole Program), Diane Gentou and Timothée Desabres, recently went to the Philippines for their gap year project in the social enterprise The Plaf – the Plastic Flamingo. This company aims to collect and recycle plastic waste into sustainable products. We recently interviewed the two students to learn about their motivation and their missions.*

1.  Can you please explain why you chose to do a gap year abroad, and why you chose the Philippines?

Diane: I have always been particularly sensitive to environmental issues, which is why I naturally wanted to join the social and solidary enterprise The Plastic Flamingo. This start-up started its activities in the Philippines because of the amount of plastic pollution in the country. From a personal perspective, I wanted to learn more, as I had never lived in a developing country before.

Timothée: Since my early years, ecology has always been a very important subject for me. After having lived in several developing countries, my desire to work for the environment in places where the need is the most pronounced became obvious. Furthermore, in the framework of my studies at IÉSEG, I wanted to have an experience in starting a company. The Plaf is a project that particularly motivates me.

2. Please explain your missions at the “Plastic Flamingo” in a few words.

Diane: I have been the Community Manager for The Plastic Flamingo, and have been developing the communication strategy for our social networks. For example, programming posts, creating visuals if needed, and responding to messages and comments. In parallel to this, I have helped with different communication-related subjects, such as Public Relations, website development, etc.

Timothée: My mission at The Plastic Flamingo consists of working with service providers, partners and potential clients in order to implement operations to collect plastic waste, recycling it into a new material, then making it into a product with a social impact.

3.  How will this gap year experience help you in your professional journey?

Diane: I’m looking to orient my career in the social economy sector. Hence, The Plastic Flamingo has brought me key knowledge related to this subject. I also have had the opportunity to see the creation of a start-up up close. Seeing as my tasks have been varied, I have been able to develop a number of professional skills in the communication domain. I also have some ideas for my master’s thesis subject now!

Timothée: Related to my professional journey, this project has allowed me to have a first professional experience in the environment sector, and to confirm my interest in this area and in entrepreneurship. I have also learned about my own capacities and limits. This has allowed me not only to have a clearer picture about my career choices when I will leave IÉSEG, but also my longer-term long-term professional and life projects. Today, I am sure that I want to create my own social and environmental project.

*This interview took place in December, before Diane’s return. The product that Plastic Flamingo is currently concentrating on making is post-typhoon shelters for populations living in at-risk zones. The team is launching a crowdfunding campaign to finance the first shelters.