Skip to main content

Fabretto Fellowship - Nicaragua

Print PagePrint Page


Fabretto Children's Foundation has established a partnership with Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business that enables undergraduate business school students to intern in the summer with Fabretto in Nicaragua.  

Each summer, the Georgetown McDonough Undergraduate Program Office awards students fellowships of up to $5000 that enables them to spend up to five weeks of the summer in various parts of Nicaragua. During their time in Nicaragua, the Georgetown McDonough students work on projects such as teaching the fundamentals of business to high school students and helping them prepare for the SAT. Hoyas also work with school administrators to help improve the business curriculum, focusing on management and entrepreneurship.

To learn more about the experience, read one student's blog:

 

NACE UNA JEFE (A BOSS IS BORN)
Jasmin Joseph, Class of 2017 

When our small group, Team Oportunidad (later renamed Team Gallo Pinto after group-favorite, Nicaraguan culinary staple: rice and beans) arrived in Leon we were expected to divide our time between three assignments: first, we would be offering consulting for one existing and one start-up local businesses through a sub-section of the mayor’s office called Vivero de Empresas, second, redesigning Soluciones Comunitarias marketing materials, and thirdly, actively participating in the Social Entrepreneur Corps(SEC) keystone project—grassroots publicity and Village Access Campaigns (VACs) to facilitate the growth of SEC founder Greg van Kirk’s  Microconsignment Model.

The second assignment was conceived when one of our acessoras, Veronica, approached her Soluciones Comunitarias leadership to express apprehension about the materials being used for publicity. From her work in the field, she determined that they were confusing, too text-heavy, and failed to emphasize the most important information they intended to share: the date, time, and place of the upcoming campaign. Additionally, she believed that rather than carrying around sample products, a product catalog that contained photos of the products in action and information about their benefits, would be more effective in informing members of the communities of the utility, and transitively, value, of the products to be sold at the campaign. Dually, it served the purpose of removing the appearance of a “traveling salesman” of seeing a person going door-to-door carrying product.  She hoped that these changes would produce positive results for the VAC she was holding two weeks later.

Over the course of the week, half of our team worked to redesign the marketing materials so that they appeared more along the lines of a save-the-date/invitation, rather than a product advertisement. We simplified the existing text, enlarged and separated the location information and created separate mini-flyers for the solar lamp, water filter, and free eye exams. We had found that when inviting people during the publicity rounds, many people appeared to “anchor” on certain offerings. By separating the mini, pre-VAC flyers, it (theoretically) targeted each specific member of our intended audience. It became a theme throughout our work—innovate and advance—when confronted with an issue of ineptitude, we identified the root problem, determined to solve it and advance accordingly. Veronica responded entirely positively to the updated designs, especially the product catalog, which began using immediately after we delivered them to her when we met at her home before taken the bus to the publicity site (a rural community called Tololar 1). 

I felt it quite a significant moment to experience Veronica that day. As a native Nicaraguan, she able with look at a map and moments after, fluidly navigate the design and often nameless streets of the rural community. She approached people, families and homes with a confidence, then pass the information with a light but informative brevity, which people seemed to appreciate more than the fumbling Spanish of yet another group of Americans attempting to offer unsolicited aid. For the first time, I was inclined to follow Veronica’s lead rather than have her follow our own. Both Veronica and the experience in and of itself was the fulfillment of the Soluciones Comuniatarias mission: to take motivated but marginalized women and give them the tools, training and opportunity to concentrate their entrepreneurial spirit in a productive effort. She was not only equipped to do publicity, run campaigns and reorder the necessary inventory to continue this work, but she functioned so well within her position that she could supervise that of others. She could easily be moved to a leadership position in training other acessoras. In fact, she brought young woman from her own community to serve as her assistant and as an accountant/receptionist at the campaign. She was trained entirely beforehand by Veronica and was integral in helping one of our largest campaigns run smoothly. 

 

 

 

This campaign was the first I witnessed in the field with significant traffic. For the entirety of the day, there were at least three people waiting for eye exams and at least two or three others, lingering to talk to friends, inquiring about the products or stopping by to inform us that another person they knew would soon be coming to the campaign for an eye exam or information about the solar lamps. Although efficient, Veronica was thorough in her work, from the perspective of both an entrepreneur and a Nicaraguan woman genuinely concerned for the well-being of her people, and often took the time to briefly “platicar” (“chat” or “friendly small talk”) with each person that came through. The product catalog and new flyers had, if nothing else, generated an energy of curiosity within the community, and served the intened purpose: people came out for the exams to view the product in person, reassured by the lack of obligation emphasized during publicity rounds. We sold around $750C of product, in the form of thirteen pairs of glasses and protective lenses, three boxes of eyedrops, and ten cases for the glasses. 

From the time we met Veronica at her house—a tidy, home, shaded by a hand-made awning of grape vines and the fanning leaves of a coconut tree, enshrined atop a silty dirt which surrounded the property, which could be found at each visit neatly swept as to appear almost as a waxed, wooden floor—she consistently operated in this manner of entirety, efficiency and excellence. I was greatly inspired working with her.  I admired the tenacity with which she tackled all and any assignment, only halted by forces beyond her control (such as the farmer and his half-mile cattle drive that blocked the main road in one particular town, below), in which case she then exercised level-headed patience or adapted and advanced, if necessary. Lessons about working with Nicaraguans, social entreprenuership and international business were solidified all in a few meetings with this woman. When the work was over, she transformed to reveal facets of her personality constructed of kindness and gratitude, thanking us for all individually for our hard work and help with the campaign. 

I believe this encounter was the first time that we saw the competency of Soluciones Comunitarias and Social Entreprenuer Corps personified. There was an apparently contagious impact on the acessesora and her community, as she brought not only financial capital back to her home, but skills and knowledge to be passed onto to other young women (and men) within the community. I realized that this was the fullness of impact we intended to reach. In all of its dimensions, in asseora, community, rural community the Microconsignment Model had not only facilitated the reaping of a harvest, but the planting of a seed in the hearts (and minds) of all those involved.