Coca-Cola’s Andina Bottler has made a commitment not only to provide quality products, but also to support the development of the communities it serves throughout Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay.

Andina’s Chilean division, headquartered in Renca, Chile, sits in a low income community that suffers from violent crime and lack of educational opportunities.

Wanting to do more, the bottler conceived the TEDxRenca Conference held in their facilities in October 2016. Open to 100 attendees, conference organizers appealed to those charged with providing educational opportunities in Renca, in hopes that such stakeholders would help to spark positive community change.

Daniel Escobillana, Andina’s Project Engineer and TEDx organizer, views the collection of TEDxRenca talks as one of many answers to the question, “How can we share ideas in order to make community members feel as qualified as any member of any community in the world?"

To address this, conference organizers invited six speakers ranging from artists to entrepreneurs to speak on the theme “Empowering South Latin Communities.”

Divided into two parts, the day began with philosophical discussions on how to dismantle self-defeatist assumptions that Latin America is antiquated and incapable of finding solutions to challenges European nations have yet to solve. Escobillana hopes that by celebrating the accomplishments South Latins have already achieved, this conference reminded audiences to empower themselves.

The conference continued with conversations about how to take action, with speakers discussing how they personally overcame obstacles to achieve success.

Embracing Change

Wanting to end the TEDx conference with a “powerful and emotional” call to action, Escobillana sought a final speaker who could energize audiences into creating change.

When it comes to embracing both positive and challenging changes, Vincenzo Piscopo, a Portfolio Innovation Group Director for Coca-Cola based in Atlanta, is the man for the job.

Seven years ago, Piscopo woke up to excruciating back pain. A herniated disk had pressed against his spinal cord, leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

His first reaction? Depression.

But soon after, as he lay in the hospital, his wife grounded him. “The things that make us happy are still intact,” she told him. From that day on, Piscopo made a commitment to embrace optimism in the face of change and to prioritize the things that make him happy.

“At that moment, I decided to focus not on what I couldn't do anymore, but on what I was still able to do,” he said, recalling that conversation with his wife. “As I embark on this journey I realize that what I'm capable of doing is immeasurable.”

He adds, “Change is unpredictable. Change is unstoppable. By embracing it, you can leverage change and make it a positive for you.”

Escobillana has no doubt that Piscopo was the right choice of speaker to conclude TEDxRenca. He says, “It was not only an emotional talk because of his personal story, but it was also a very philosophical talk.” The result, Escobillana believes, was that “the crowd perceived him as truly genuine.”

Piscopo hopes his message, alongside those of his fellow TEDxRenca speakers, empowers his audience to empower themselves and others.

“I want to continue sending the message of hope, happiness and the power of embracing change,” he says.

Piscopo’s full talk and those of his fellow TEDxRenca speakers are available here.