When two groups of Franklin & Marshall students traveled to Ecuador and Nicaragua over the summer, they left with the intention of transforming lives through economic development. Eight weeks later, they realized the transformation was also internal, and more extensive than they ever imagined.
“It was the most wonderful and life-changing experience I’ve ever had,” says Oliver Tingling ’11, one of five students who traveled to Ecuador. “I became a better man. I can’t go one day without talking about Ecuador. It was enriching, and I want people to know about it.”
Eight F&M students took part in community-based learning internships for credit in central and South America over the summer, including five in Ecuador and three in Nicaragua. They worked in association with Social Entrepreneur Corps (SEC), an organization whose mission is to design and implement entrepreneurial solutions in rural and developing countries. The Ware Institute for Civic Engagement organized the trips.
“These are great opportunities for our students,” says Susan Dicklitch, associate dean of the College, director of the Ware Institute and associate professor of government. “The key is that students make connections between the local and the global. Issues relating to social justice and economic development also exist right here in Lancaster. Students learn about theory and then apply their expertise in a real-world setting. That’s what makes it so powerful.”
Prior to their departure, the students spent two weeks at F&M studying the cultural, economic and political issues relating to their trips. After arriving at their international sites, students worked with local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to gain insight into the opportunities and inherent risks of third-world economic development. They worked as consultants for small businesses, teaching business owners how to improve their operations.
This was the second year the College offered the internship for credit in Ecuador. Joining Tingling in Ecuador were Claire Giblin ’12, Ning He ’12, Alexa Moser ’12 and Hugo Nguyen ’11. The students sold reading glasses, seeds, eye drops and solar lamps to improve the living standards of local residents and spark economic development. “People basically had nothing, and they were so grateful and glad for things we take for granted,” Tingling says. “It inspired me to keep going.”
To view a video on the Ecuador trip produced by Tingling,Â click here.
The students who traveled to Nicaragua were part of a pilot program run by SEC. Alejandro Alfaro Aco ’11, Long Ip ’10 and Rene Karpati ’11 traveled around the country searching for businesses that shared the same values and goals of SEC, which promotes the microconsignment model of social entrepreneurship. The model encourages the generation of income through sustainable ventures.
“I didn’t study abroad, so this was a great opportunity to visit another country and also have an internship,” Alfaro Aco says. “We tried to build a foundation in Nicaragua. I grabbed a map of the city and made a lot of cold calls. If we saw an opportunity, we tried to form partnerships.”
Karpati believes there is no substitute for seeing the economic problems firsthand. “It’s important to immerse yourself into the culture to understand what their situation is like,” Karpati says. “We got to know the country very well by traveling around.”
The Ware Institute will offer the program in Ecuador again next year, and, for the first time, a summer internship-for-credit program in South Africa in association with SEC. The College will again offerÂ Global Public Health, a summer travel course that took place in South Africa for the first time this year.
In addition, the Ware Institute will organize alternative winter and spring break trips to Guatemala and Honduras, respectively, in the coming months.