Year in School: Senior
Major: Operations Management & Information Systems
Hometown: Mendota, IL
In my life I’ve only had a few of those experiences that really changed my life. And I mean REALLY changed my life. Bigger than getting accepted into college or making the volleyball team. I’m talking about those events where you change who you are as a person and where you want to go in life.
My most recent was in Bucerias, Mexico on a Microfinance study abroad trip. Over the past 2 years I’ve been fascinated with social entrepreneurship, which is how entrepreneurs find innovative solutions to social problems (like hunger, poverty and education). As I dove deeper into the subject, I had the opportunity to take the Microfinance course with Dennis Barsema, which included a week long study abroad trip to Bucerias, Mexico. During the semester we learned how people living in poverty who are running their own business can benefit from small loans. During the trip we would be working with a client who owned their own business in Mexico and heard their stories about how their life is affected by having access to this type of capital.
Meeting our clients who lived and worked in Mexico truly made me think about the world differently. The people we visited all built their house from the ground up. Families of 4-8 people started out by living in a cardboard shack. Then they found strong limbs from trees to make support beams and bought scrap metal to build a roof. Every wall was put together brick by brick until it created a room, and each room was added at different times as they were able to afford materials. To the untrained eye, these homes wouldn’t look like much, but to our clients they were everything. Our clients in Mexico grew up in the some of the most difficult situations. But, because of their success they were so grateful. One of our clients named Luz had to marry at the age of 11 to support her little brother, and had her first child by the age of 12. Two years later her husband divorced her and now she had to take care of a baby and her little brother. Luz started selling beaded bracelets to support her family and eventually made enough money to buy a house and put her daughter through school. When we went to visit her she was so grateful we wanted to hear about her business and didn’t even think the story of her past would interest us.
Everyone we met was just happy to even have the opportunity to start a business to provide for their family. I learned that: 1) Not everyone puts value on material things and 2) You can find happiness if you look for it. I was amazed by how humble these people were and how hard they’ve worked to get over every hurdle that came their way. This trip made me truly want to continue to try and help people start a business like Luz did so they are able to provide for their family and continue being happy.