Did you know that the glasswing butterfly has beautiful transparent wings and can be found in the rainforests of South and Central America? Or that the protected species are called “espejitos” (“little mirrors” in Spanish)? It’s this commitment to transparency, self-reflection, protection, and the knowledge that a small movement can create change that inspired the non-profit Glasswing International, which offers education and health programs that help people living in poverty, to adopt the name.
At the seventh annual Glasswing Gala last week, the organization raised a whopping $1.6 million dollars to go toward children and young people living in Latin America and New York City. Celina de Sola, her brother Diego, and her husband Ken Baker founded Glasswing with the goal of protecting vulnerable communities in four spheres: education, health, community empowerment and employment, and entrepreneurship.
Their work—which has impacted the lives of 1.5 million people—is precisely what attracted this year’s honoree, Carmen Busquets. As the founding investor of Net-a-Porter and a pioneering entrepreneur in the fashion-technology space, Busquets became inspired to use her platform and resources to help the less fortunate. In an interview with ELLE.com, Busquets discussed how she got involved with Glasswing and her hopes for the future of the fashion industry.
What inspired you to get involved with Glasswing International?
Having been born and raised in Venezuela, and being aware of the struggles endured by many throughout Latin America, I wanted to do something to make a difference ever since I left my country. I was introduced to Celina de Sola, Glasswing’s president and co-founder, and we connected immediately. I already knew that the board and team were highly skilled and effective, and, most importantly, that they handled the organization’s budget in a sustainable and super cautious manner.
I asked to visit a few of the bigger public schools that Glasswing worked with, and we traveled to some of the most challenging neighborhoods in El Salvador and Guatemala. In order to give it my all, I needed to see for myself that the organization was “the real deal.” When we spoke to a group of girls from the Girls Clubs, I remember them being so surprised by the fact that I was such a successful single woman–they didn’t even know that was an option. More so, I was shocked by how surprised they were by our visit. So many of them told me that they felt invisible, and like they weren’t a part of society. I told them that they were, in fact, the most important part.
But I realized that my words were not enough to give these children hope—they needed to see real action. Like me, they needed to see the direct impact of these actions, which is why so many of the young people who have taken part in Glasswing’s programs later become volunteers and, in so doing, they reaffirm Celina’s belief in the butterfly effect: small acts can achieve great impact.
In your work as a volunteer and a mentor, what have been some of your most rewarding experiences?
There have been so many rewarding moments since I started working with Glasswing, especially during my trips to Guatemala and El Salvador. The visit to the Union Square school in NYC was also an incredibly powerful experience. I learned a lot from the courage and the gratitude of the children and youth that we spent time with, and from their honest and fearless way of expressing how they feel.
There is something very moving in seeing a child’s face light up with joy because you remembered their name, or the way they were dressed, or the conversation you had with them the first time you met them. It is magical to be able to show them that you are genuine and to share your love for them with a firm belief that we are one. And, of course, it is also wonderful to witness the concrete impact that direct action can have on peoples’ lives. Like you and I, they too need to know that they are making an impact.
Giving is contagious—when you give to someone, it makes the other person want to give back to you.
What are you hopeful about, both in the fashion industry and with Glasswing?
When it comes to fashion, my hope is that it will become a more sustainable industry where recycling and zero waste become commonplace practices that every brand adopts, whilst striving to create more individual collections made, where possible, in collaboration with artisans to keep ancient crafts alive and artisanal communities in employment. As a whole, I think the industry could do with being a little less pretentious and a lot more respectful of our planet’s finite resources and the negative effects caused by our supply chains and production.
For Glasswing, I hope we will be able to continue to grow our outreach so that we can empower more communities by providing children and young people with key life skills such as confidence, creativity, curiosity, and collaboration, as well as educational and economic opportunities. With support from caring adults, we also want them to believe in themselves without seeking anyone else’s approval.
Where do you feel like we still have work to do?
We will always have more work to do—it is part of our human nature! As we evolve, we realize there is so much that we don’t know. Everyone has the right to know that they have huge potential, and that it is up to them to realize it. However, it is also up to you and me, or anyone else who has food on the table and a bed to sleep in, to support them, so they can learn the skills that will allow them to become who they want to be.
We also need to break down the myth of how money, success, and fame bring you happiness, because it is a damaging misconception. It is a trap that keeps us running like hamsters in a wheel, who exhaust themselves without ever getting anywhere. Until we understand that and free ourselves from the pressure to achieve more and more, we are never going to be truly happy.
All I know is that success and privilege come hand in hand with the responsibility of making the world a better place—they don’t entitle you to get wealthier or to become the wealthiest person in the cemetery. I know I won’t ever be that woman.