Now that we've learned something about the developing world and how microfinance projects are attempting to make a sustainable difference in the economic well-being of people in some of these countries, you might wonder what you can do with your newfound knowledge. That's what my final summer project post will attempt to answer.
The daughter of a friend of mine from college is currently serving as an intern in Argentina for the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD). Her name is Christine Solitario, and she just finished her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A few weeks ago, via Facebook, she sent me the following overview of what she's doing there:
"Right now I am in Villa Elisa, a neighborhood of La Plata in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'm interning through Foundation for Sustainable Development, an international NGO that coordinates short and long term volunteering in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Their Argentina program is based in La Plata. My internship is with a self-sustaining microfinanced sewing cooperative called Mi Perrito Cooperative. They started at the end of 2006 and began focusing on the production of dog clothing. Currently, they're trying to expand and have a contract to make babies' clothing through an organization called Otro Mercado that supports sustainable cooperative. Their workshop is based in a "comedor" called Arco Iris, a community center that provides nutritional meals and educational and social development activities to over 70 children in the area, including the children of the women that work in the cooperative. I'm involved in lots of different things with the group, it changes everyday. The "microfinance" aspect of the cooperative is that they have received micro-loans from a lender here in Argentina called La Base that focuses its efforts on cooperatives. They have also received several grants written by previous FSD interns (I'm currently writing one too). Like I said, it's not like the "traditional microfinance" of SE Asia or Grameen Bank where individual women receive loans and then organize in groups to ensure timely payment, provide support to other group members, etc. Still, the cooperative does work with small loans and grants."
It struck me when I read her words that she's not that much older than any of you! And what an adventure she's having! What an incredible learning experience. (Not to mention, what a great way to differentiate your college application from the thousands that admissions offices receive every year.)
Did I get your attention yet? Since this class is all about student-driven, hands-on learning, encouraging you all to consider an internship or short-term volunteer trip with a group like FSD seemed like the PERFECT last project in my summer series. It could even develop into your project for this class for this year. So here's what you need to do if you choose this project for the blog this summer:
1) Read the above note that Christine sent to me. (By the way, I'll bet Christine would answer your friend request on Facebook if you wanted to speak with her directly about her trip.)
2) Go to the website for the Foundation for Sustainable Development:
Read through the home page, the Why FSD - 10 Reasons page, the Internship page, Short-Term Volunteering page, and one of the blog posts from people who are already serving in various developing nations. Then answer the following questions:
If you became an intern or volunteer, where would you like to go? Why?
What would you do to prepare for your trip? What might you need to learn?
Why might you or someone else choose to become part of a program like this?
Once your internship or volunteer trip was over, what would you like to have accomplished a) for the people in the community you served and b) for yourself?
I would LOVE to see one or more of you actually become part of a program like this that would take you to a developing nation. If you did, it would be a life-changing experience.