Northeastern student Michael Cantalino is on co-op in India with SKS MIcrofinance. Courtesy photo.
September 22, 2010
Over the past nine years, Northeastern University junior Michael Cantalino has devoted his time to building houses, schools and health clinics in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, through hometown church groups and student-led initiatives.
His ongoing co-op in India with SKS Microfinance—the first microfinance bank in the country to be publicly traded—is the latest example of Cantalino’s commitment to helping the less fortunate by marrying the principals of business and philanthropy.
“I’ve always liked finding sustainable ways to help other people so they can help themselves,” says Cantalino, an entrepreneurship and finance major who has a firm belief that he’ll be “working all over the world as soon as I graduate.”
“Seeing a person’s life change in front of your eyes because of the work that you did is something that a donation or gift can’t really match.”
Cantalino, a Presidential Global Scholar, knows first-hand. He’s the cofounder of Net Impact Undergraduate at Northeastern, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the world through business, and the chairman of funding and events for Northeastern DRYVE (Distributing Resources to Youth Through Volunteer Efforts), an initiative bent on improving the lives of underprivileged youth worldwide.
But it’s his most recent experiential learning opportunity that he says has shaped his career path.
When he graduates, Cantalino plans to open up a philanthropy-based travel agency, which would enable students to make a lasting impact in impoverished communities, while immersing themselves in the region’s culture.
The goal, he says, is to “give students the opportunity to do what I’ve had the chance to do at Northeastern.”
At SKS Microfinance, Cantalino juggles a number of roles in several different departments, but the bulk of his work is with Bodhi Academies.
It’s an arm of the company that builds schools using funds from the organization’s for-profit loans, which it makes to impoverished women who want to start their own small businesses.
Cantalino routinely visits the schools to check on academic progress and attendance rates, hoping that an education will prevent students from “idling in the streets and doing child labor.”
He’s also setting up a transportation system for children who would otherwise be forced to drop out of school because their classrooms are too far away from where they live.
Cantalino, who recently had the opportunity to meet company founder Vikram Akula, relishes the opportunity to dive into so many different projects.
“I laid out my experiences and expressed interest in getting involved with as many projects as possible,” says Cantalino, who hopes to help facilitate a potential partnership between SKS and TerraCycle, a company in New Jersey that turns hard-to-recycle waste into eco-friendly products. “I’m fortunate that the company is flexible and wanted me to gain this diverse experience.”