Students share Guatemala experience
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 00:10
Many college students who go abroad to third world nations are often Red Cross volunteers and United Nation interns provide food and clothing. However, one organization, Social Entrepreneur Corps (SEC), has decided that college students should empower local entrepreneurs.
Five students who participated in SEC Guatemala presented their experiences at the SEC at the Student Union Wednesday afternoon. SEC was co-founded by Greg Van Kirk and George Bucky Glickley, two former Peace Corps volunteers, who had been working in Guatemala.
“We work with university and university students to design and implement social innovations in the developing world,” Van Kirk president of SEC said. They noticed that a lack of development had stifled the tourist industry in Guatemala at the time, after a 36-year civil war that devastated the country and left its’ citizens with little economic opportunity. They were able to use some of their own funds to build infrastructure to support the tourist industry. They eventually developed the Micro Consignment Model to help female entrepreneurs grow their businesses and provide new, efficient equipment.
“The organization works in Guatemala year round, introducing new technologies in rural communities, empowering local women entrepreneurs,” Van Kirk said.
Students from universities across the U.S. can apply to work for the SEC for eight weeks during the summer. After a two weeks orientation, which involved learning culture, understanding micro consignment, learning international development models and studying Spanish, the students go to work. They spent the rest of their time interacting with their host families, working with both local entrepreneurs and other students to provide infrastructure such as water filters, and efficient wood stoves, and offering new social services to the villagers.
“We provided tangible services and products, such as water filters, and we provided education to children who previously hadn’t had any,” said Varrum Khutten, a 3rd-semester ACES major, “But we also empowered local people, to cause change from within, to create sustainability. These things create awareness that spreads beyond these communities to other organizations.”
The five students who presented believed the program not only benefited the locals they met, but also benefited themselves. “I was really interested in going abroad,” said Anne Pancak, 5th-semester journalism major, “but I wanted to do something more. I actually made a difference in the community. I got to tell a story about my special education program, and tell stories that would not have been otherwise told.”
The program has proven to benefit both local communities as well as students looking to make a difference. “I think is an outstanding program,” said Phil van Kirk, a member of the SEC board, “ it provides sustainability and independence.”