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May 2006  

A Chilean in Calcutta

After getting his degree in Business, Carlos Kubik decided to travel to Calcutta, India, to work with and for the world’s poorest, along Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. It was an experience which he now wants to promote among Chilean businessmen. He believes in corporate social responsibility and that Ethics are part of what sustains our cultural identity.

By Rosario Lorca


He had followed the path that would lead him to success: a good school, a career in Business, a degree and several job offers. But Carlos Kubik chose neither, and flew to India to work for months with the world’s poorest.

Why did you chose such a different life project from the one you were expected to have?
I always felt the need to do something for other people, and I believed that the best moment was now, when I was still young and free of obligations. I had no fear of getting into debt in order to travel.

How have you felt the inner change this experience has brought you?
Some years ago, when I was in Australia as an exchange student, I went to Asia and met many people that suggested me to visit Calcutta. So I went there briefly, and felt the need to go back with more time, as soon as I finished School. I believe you should give yourself time for things such as these, to become a volunteer. Beyond what you can personally give, what’s important is what’s left inside you. You realize there’s so many people in so much more need than yourself, and that you really don’t need much to be happy. At the same time, you realize you have a huge responsibility coming from the lucky background you come from. I have received so many things that I have taken for granted, but most people don’t have them.

It must have been very intense.
Enormously. One of the Missionaries of Charity’s beliefs is that you should not just give love, but allow others to give it too. That changes you: feeling that you are doing something good, and that there are people that are thankful for it. It’s really impressive to see how diverse are the volunteers that go to Calcutta: some are atheists, some are gay, young and old. And all are transformed in the same way, just by giving love and living life in the simplest of forms.

Do you believe such an experience can really last throughout time, or that it inevitably looses its strength?
Maybe both. It’s like that parable about the seed that can either fall over fertile or arid soil. Some people may view this whole thing as just an anecdote, but it’s hard to remain unmoved by something like that. Most change profoundly, and are able to see what’s supernatural. These are people that have gone beyond daily life, and the routine of working-making money-spending-working some more-spending some more. This allows you to see all that from above, and realize there are things so much more important in life. A day has 16 working hours, and sometimes you use 14 of them in things that have no importance whatsoever.

Do you feel that there is something different in you from other professionals?
It’s hard to generalize. I know some great people that have never experienced something like this, but there’s no doubt that it helps in dealing with people and giving each issue the importance it really deserves. So you don’t feel that your life depends on your job, but that it is just a way of making a living, since your own personal development is somewhere else.

How do you see solidarity in a country such as ours?
It is something that has always concerned me. Chile is somehow privileged in that sense: it has the most non-profit organizations in South America, and around 1,5 per cent of its GIP is produced by them. Anyway, there’s still a lot to help with.

All this experience is what you write about in the book “Calcutta ríe”.
Yes. We found sponsorship from some companies, and all profits will go to the Missionaries of Charity.

Have you thought about repeating the experience?
What I really would like to do is to apply this experience here in my country. Some people go back to Calcutta every year, but I prefer to work with what I learnt right here, on a daily basis.

Do you believe that business people should go through something like this?
Yes, I believe businesspeople should get more involved, but mainly for how important it is to believe in what you do. Actually, Mother Theresa was a very quiet nun, penniless, and she achieved so much more than a big company built on profits.  I do believe that it’s hard for a business person to stay away from the stress and noise of daily life, from praise, from the feeling of self-sufficiency, and thinking that you need nobody and nothing else.

How could we work on this, on what’s now called “corporate social responsibility”?
It’s hard, but we should find those moments of peace, even if it’s just a few minutes every day. Finally, it depends more on people than on companies for this to work. And I’m certain that most personal values do not come from the school nor workplace, but from the family. So I do feel it’s important for companies to allow their employees to have good-quality family time.

Would you suggest any ideas for the education of our students which would allow them to experience their society in a more profound way?
While you’re at college, doing some volunteer work during the vacations is a very good choice. Same with missions. There’s many choices around us, and we should just learn to take advantage of them, especially because it’s during your years as a student when you have more time to spare. We know that Chile has a great tradition in solidarity, with many institutions in which you can trust and help. This way, you start strengthening a real cultural identity: rooted in ethical values.


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