BYU students give service to small businesses overseas

By on July 25, 2011.

Many Ecuadorian villagers may go several years, even decades with impaired and deteriorating vision. They do not have access to eye doctors or medical attention and many cannot afford eye glasses.

Americans often do not have to experience a decreased quality of life or suffer because a simple solution, like eye glasses, is lacking or unaffordable. While situations like these in third-world countries often go unnoticed in America, some BYU students have noticed and decided to make a difference to those in need.

Andrew Scheuermann, a senior majoring in business managment, assisted in filming the changes of Ecuadorian villagers in the city Cuenca. He said he witnessed the benefits of a new poverty-fighting tool called microconsignment, which made eye glasses affordable to the village. Ecuadorians could purchase glasses for $7 and allowed the villagers to have clear vision again.

More than 20 BYU students received grant money or scholarships to go overseas and abroad to different cities for a social entrepreneurship internship, which aims to solve society’s challenges using entrepreneurial techniques. The Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance awarded students with a three week to two-month internship to assist the small businesses by consulting, filming or other various activities. Each student came back with their own experiences and memorable moments of living abroad.

Emily Cawley, a graduate student studying public administration, recently returned from a fundraising venture in Kampala, Uganda, and said her experience was meaningful to her as she helped people.

“This is my third trip, and this was probably my most fulfilling but hardest trip,” Cawley said. “There are other international experiences out there, but the Ballard Center wasn’t just site-seeing, it was going to help people.”

The primary and secondary age Uganda students benefited from the fundraising venture and learned how to save for future jobs and opportunities, she said, adding that basic ideas used here in America were revolutionary to the people in Uganda. As she shadowed the Uganda employees, she said she was immersed in their culture and saw many needs in the society.

“I realized that the things I have and take for granted every day are things people lack and need over here,” Cawley said. “As you work you can see how you are helping them; that makes it that much more rewarding.”

The Ballard Center provides these opportunities to students to go out and use their own majors to make a change in the world, said Natalie Dance, public relations director for the Ballard Center. Adding that anyone can participate in a social entrepreneruship internship, she said there are no specific majors required. The main goal is to teach self-reliance  to other countries in need. It’s the principle of teaching a man to fish instead of just giving a man fish, Dance said.

“The Ballard Center is a connector organization,” Dance said. “Students come here to learn how to use their field of study to make the world a better place.”

The Ballard Center is the social entrepreneurship and non-profit department of the Marriott Center. For more information about social entrepreneurship internship opportunities, visit marriottschool.byu.edu/selfreliance.