On his walk to class through a City, University of London corridor, Harry Vasilaras, then- second year student was met with an opportunity that would ignite a passion in him, one that would live on throughout his years at university and into his professional life.
A group of students were recruiting for the university society arm of the charity Enactus, whose name is derived from the mantra: En trepreneurial Act ion for Us . The organization supports business innovation for social impact, relying on teams of students, academic and business leaders to collaborate and make a better world.
“Getting involved with the organization gave me the opportunity to showcase my abilities through something that has meaningful change to someone,” Harry, an underwriter in Financial Lines, said.
Harry and his team saw a way to bring about that meaningful world change after learning about a region in Brazil that had extreme water issues, causing crop yield to be extraordinarily low.
The students developed a multi-year plan to introduce hydroponics, or a farming system that uses mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent instead of a traditional soil farming system. In a university-wide contest, they won a £5,000 grant to implement the project for the region.
The team, which had no agricultural experience, found learning to use hydroponics was a challenge. They grew crops in their apartments, networked with experienced students, and worked with business advisers, including someone from AIG, to ensure their system could be taught to local farmers as a sustainable solution to their farming crisis.
“It was really good to step out of our comfort zone,” said Harry. “Enactus empowers you to feel like you could take on a challenge. Without Enactus, I wouldn’t have felt the belief and motivation to address such a need because I wouldn’t have felt experienced enough,” Harry said.
Although the project continued on after Harry graduated, the experience, relationships and the lessons he learned proved to be invaluable. Harry’s business adviser from AIG became a mentor and led him to his first job at AIG.
Today, Harry says he often applies the skills he developed during his time at Enactus, including analysis, presentation, leadership and relationship management to his day-to-day work.
“With Enactus, we had to understand and identify a need,” said Harry. “It’s the same at AIG. You have to assess the needs and wants of the client. You also have to analyze and see how challenging it is to get to that point and what compromises need to be made. Enactus helps set the frameworks, guidelines, and overall objective to try to find a solution.”
Harry’s dedication to Enactus did not stop at graduation. Soon after he joined AIG, he began managing the relationship between AIG UK and Enactus UK. In two years since, the number of volunteers and events has increased significantly, with nearly half of the universities in the UK paired with an AIG business adviser. To recognize his amazing work to improve the partnership, Harry was recognized by Enactus with the 2018 Partner Champion Award.
“Working with Enactus, you naturally become more creative because you’re surrounded by creative people,” said Harry. “Whether you’re addressing a social issue or working with a client, you learn to see that everything isn’t black and white. You can see challenges in a different way, as long as you work hard at it, you can achieve it.”
This project is supported by AIG’s volunteer programme.Find out more