2015 ND Asia Internship

*Sorry for the delay of the blogs due to the internet blockage in China.

7 June 2015

Hi, everyone! My name is Dongyi Xia and I’m from Hangzhou, China. I’m going to be a sophomore and I am a Business (undecided) and History double-major. This summer, I got the internship opportunity at the Notre Dame Asia office in Beijing, China. This internship was sponsored by SIBC. Although I am from China, my hometown Hangzhou is located at the Southeast coast of China, while Beijing is at the north. The differences between the northern and southern China are great, and I was excited to have the chance to lived and worked for six weeks at the capital and to experience a different culture.

My partner and I were housed in a guest house of PBCSF, Tshinghua University. Our office in Zhongguancun was close to our housing, so we were not too worried about commuting. For the first two weeks of work, we focused on the Business and Culture Program (BCG) which were going to spend two weeks in Beijing. We updated a booklet for the students who were in this program. The booklet was meant to make the students’ lives easier and get to know Beijing better- it contained comprehensive information about transportation, nearby restaurants, cultural sites in Beijing etc.

We also planned a cultural scavenger hunt for the group of students! My partner and I got the chance to visit all the famous places in Beijing: the Summer Palace, the Old Summer Palace, the Olympic Park and the campus of Tshinghua University. We designed questions afterwards for the BCG students to find out the answers. My personal favorite is the Old Summer Palace. It was stunning in my eyes.


The Old Summer Palace


The Bird’s Nest


Candy Art by street artist (It is a pig, not a scorpion like my partner thought.)


Peking duck- Best food ever!

28 June 2015

It’s already the end of my fifth week of internship. Last three weeks had been busy but fun. On June 7th morning, we went to the train station and picked up the BCG group. During our third and fourth week of internship, the BCG group was in Beijing and they also lived at the guesthouse of PBCSF. Therefore, one job for me and my partner was to be the RAs of the students. Since the group arrived, our work was divided between office work (marketing materials, translation of “What Would You Fight For” series etc) and accompanying the students on their field trips. My partner and I split the field trips: she went to sightseeing with the students while I went to company visits.

For the company visits, we had been to several interesting companies: a real estate company named Savills, the US Embassy, newspaper agents like Caixin Media and Reuters. During the visits, students got to see the office space and hear from speakers of the company. Students got to know more about different industries and how business operated in China.

On the fifth week, right after the BCG group left Beijing, we were busy moving the office. The new office was in Chaoyang District and was near to the US embassy. The new office was more spacious but also further from where we lived. Now we’re spending two hours on subway commuting everyday, which is actually a quite interesting experience.


Left to right: my partner Teresa, our supervisor Miranda, and me


Visit to Reuters


Talk by the company speaker

12 July 2015

How time flies! It’s already the end of the internship. The last week has been super busy. During the last week of office we were working on new projects. I was mostly working on an academic trip to Hangzhou (my hometown!) and Shanghai for the Chinese Language Summer Program. We made a booklet containing the background information of the sites and companies they are going to visit.

At the end of the very last week came the fun part: I was going to go to Hangzhou and Shanghai with the group! We took an overnight train to Hangzhou. When we were there we visited a company named Westfield, whose CEO actually sponsored this academic trip. It was a company focusing on outdoor equipments. We got to visit the factory which was really cool. After that the group had dinner at one of the most famous restaurants in Hangzhou- Louwailou, which located right next to the famous West Lake.

The next morning we took a high-speed train to Shanghai and visited the illy Caffee company that day. The students got to enjoy the freshly made coffee and actually learned how to make coffee themselves. Later that night, the group joined the annual alumni picnic in Shanghai. The second day in Shanghai was scheduled for sightseeing: the Yu Gardern, the Yufo Temple and the Shanghai Museum. All of us were very impressed by the beauty of the ancient garden.

On my train back home, I could not help but wonder how fast the past six weeks went by. Reflecting back on my experience, I found it extremely rewarding: I’ve learned a great deal about how to collect information and compile marketing materials. I also improved on my problem-solving skill and learned to solve problems that may come up unexpectedly. Other than that, I got to really explore Beijing: visit the cultural sites, commute like a lot of people in Beijing do and try out different kinds of food there. It really had been a great summer. Thank you SIBC for this amazing opportunity!


illy Caffee visit


Yu Garden


Alumni Picnic in Shanghai


It has been a week since my Ecuador trip ended, and I cannot believe how quickly the 12 days passed. At the end of the trip, my group recapped and reflected on the journey. During this meeting, we were asked to compare our expectations prior to the trip with our realizations during the trip.

At this moment, I realized I did not actually have expectations prior to my arrival. My expectations only started once I was walking to my host family’s house in Cuenca.

When I was walking back, my host mom described the streets and store solely in Spanish. I kept nodding as she spoke to pretend I was understanding.. In this moment, I felt fear and disappointment creep in. The fear developed due to my inability to comprehend the information she was telling me, but the feeling of disappointment was worse as I felt guilty for not using the resources provided in my past to develop fluency in Spanish. When dinner was served and the conversation started to flow, my host family quickly realized my Spanish was quite rudimentary. Nonetheless, they showed no frustration with me as I struggled to responded to questions and asked them to repeat themselves. I was confused how the family could honest appreciate my effort and have no frustration with my ability. By the time I left Cuenca, my Spanish had improved tremendously, and I could understand about 50% of the conversation.
I was finally able to understand my host family’s genuine appreciation for my feeble effort to speak Spanish the day after we arrived in Saraguro. On this night, we visited my host mom’s brother and his family. When I walked in the front door, my host mom’s sister-in-law greeted me in English. Her pronunciation of hello sounded like “Hi low,” but I did not care about her mispronunciation. Over dinner, she went on to tell me that she was being taught English for her job, and she had been working on learning the language for about a year. When I saw the genuine appreciation she had for the help I provided with her pronunciation, I realized how my first host family showed no frustration as I struggled speak in the first night of conversation. A genuine interest and effort to accept a foreign culture is greatly appreciated even when the effort is inaccurate. The night of speaking English around the table ended with the entire family joining in as they tried to pronounce the word “car” while eating cuy (guinea pig). There was a chorus of unique pronunciations from the family members that left everyone laughing for minutes in mutual appreciation for the opportunity my host family and myself provided for each other to join in our respective cultures.

Last night with my host family in Saraguro

Last night with my host family in Saraguro

Hiking in the Gera Community

Hiking in the Gera Community

Gera community

Gera community

Looking out to the Pacific Ocean

Looking out to the Pacific Ocean

Hiking in the Gera community

Hiking in the Gera community

Beijing Summer 2015

*Due to circumstances in China with wordpress being blocked, these posts could not be posted on time, and are therefore being posted in one go.

7 June 2015

Good morning everyone! My name is Seung Hee (Teresa) Jeong, and I am a rising junior at ND. I am a Finance major, and I spent the summer at the SIBC sponsored internship in Beijing, China at the Notre Dame Asia office. I had never been to China, and I also don’t speak any Chinese, so to say that I was nervous is an understatement. However, I was also excited to move out of my comfort-zone, and to learn about a whole new culture, especially one as rich and deep as China’s.

I touched down in Beijing on May 24th and after roughly 12 hours on the plane, it felt good to have my two feet on the ground. The first thing that strikes you in Beijing is the people- Beijing International Airport is one of the largest airports I have seen and yet it is absolutely packed with people. This was only the first taste of Beijing’s packed population: the next morning, on my way to my first day of work, my partner and I were literally squashed wherever we went be it on the streets, in the morning train, or even in the elevator up to the office. While it can be tedious if you are running late (which, thank goodness, we never were), the sight is really awe-inspiring. People are packed into tiny spaces, and then you see a literal flood of people leaving the train into the station. I’d imagine that if you were watching from the sky, it would look something like when ants swarm around the entrance to an anthill. Even after two weeks, I am still amazed at how the people move here.

Our first weeks of work really focused on the Business and Culture in China summer program (or as we called it the BCC program). Amongst all the paperwork that was required and the copious planning, there was the fun part of planning a cultural scavenger hunt for the students that allowed my partner and I to go to places such as the Summer Palace, the Old Summer Palace, and the Olympic Park. It was fascinating to look around, especially the Old Summer Palace where there is so much history embedded in the site.

Old Summer Palace Pagoda

Old Summer Palace Pagoda

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

"The Bird Nest"

“The Bird Nest”

VIP lounge inside the Olympic Stadium

VIP lounge inside the Olympic Stadium

28 June 2015

The past three weeks went so quickly; I’m still surprised at where the time went. I cannot believe that I have spent five weeks in China already, but time has flown by. The last three weeks were completely jam-packed with work: with the arrival of the BCC program students. Our work was divided between the office work- marketing materials, transcripting videos and interviews, etc.- and guiding the students on their cultural and business tours. Due to my language barrier, the work ended up being split so that I took the students on the cultural tours along with a guide, while my partner took them on their business tours.

I really enjoyed those weeks with the BCC students, because we went to so many famous cultural locations such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, some temples, a contemporary art district called 798, amongst others. My personal favorite was the Great Wall, and the Llama temple: the day we went to the Great Wall it was like luck was on our side because the air cleared and it was probably the most beautiful day during my trip. The view from the wall was incredible, and no pictures that we took could do the scenery any justice. When you stand on the wall and look out, it really feels like you could fly the sky and hills are so beautiful. You can also read the history of the wall in the chipped stones, the sloping stairs, and the lookout posts.

The Llama temple on the other hand was amazing in the details that we could see in all aspects of the temple. The statues themselves are absolutely awe-inspiring, but what really captured my attention was the detail they put into the buildings that housed the statues. There were patterns and designs of flowers, clouds, the sky and nature painted into every crevice of each temple. Unfortunately the dim lighting made it difficult to capture the full picture, no pun intended, but even from afar you can see the patterns on the buildings as seen in the picture below.

Tiananmen Square at the Forbidden City with the BCC program

Tiananmen Square at the Forbidden City with the BCC program

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

View from the Great Wall

View from the Great Wall

Llama temple with the BCC program

Llama temple with the BCC program

12 July 2015

I cannot believe how fast time has gone. It is already the end of my seven weeks in Beijing, and I honestly don’t know where that time has gone. Although I have learnt so much, I feel as though I still have so much still I want to do. I suppose that is one downside to going to a place with several thousand years’ worth of history. The final weeks of the internship were focused on moving onto new projects after the BCC program was successfully completed, as well as moving the office. Our office moved from where we had originally been in the western Haidian district near Peking University, to the Chaoyang district, right by the US Embassy and closer to the business hub of Sanlitun. Amongst the moving fiascos, we were focusing on three big projects: a culture trip to Shanghai and Hangzhou for the Beijing Language Program students, a parent’s handbook for students coming to ND from the greater China region, and researching and creating learning modules for a leadership “camp” called I-Led, hosted at ND for international high school students over the summer.

At the end of my internship, I find myself reflecting on the experience as a whole, and what I have learnt as well as some regrets that I have. I think what I have learnt most from my work, amongst other things, is the value of time management and also being very flexible: our work was usually set for us with a deadline of about two weeks, but every day we went into the office there would be additional work that had to be completed by the end of the day or by the next morning. This definitely helped to hone my time management skills, and it also taught me how to work in an ever-changing environment. I also learnt quite a lot about the Chinese culture, especially in terms of their food. It is interesting to see how different the dishes are in different parts of China, and you find there is a cultural influence from these differences as well. If I had to state a regret, it is that there is still so much more that could be learnt, and I did not have the opportunity to further explore the rest of China.

Authentic Beijing Duck!

Authentic Beijing Duck!

However, I can say that this experience was one of the best summers of my life, and I am grateful to SIBC for giving me the opportunity. It has been an amazing time in this historical city, and I loved every minute of it. Thank you SIBC and thank you Beijing!

Ecuador “Oportuni-Squad” Part 3

The past two weeks in the field went by quickly. Team Oportunidad (or “Oportuni-squad,” as we call it) lived and worked in Pulingui, a community 45 minutes away from Riobamba. In less than a week, we will complete our internship and head back home. Looking back to the past eight weeks, I have discovered, to my relief, that I have realized the three goals I set for myself when the internship first started.


We talk about social entrepreneurship a lot in classroom settings. But this has been my first time actually implementing SE theories in a professional working environment. It sounds cheesy, but there have been so many first times in the past two months that this internship has changed my life and worldview. First time consulting for grassroots startups. First time giving a consulting presentation in Spanish. First time working in the field of financial education and savings groups. First time conducting door-to-door surveys and marketing… Through these fieldwork experiences, I have developed a set of values and practices that I will stick to in future social entrepreneurship works.


UTOPIA, a “Canasta Communitaria” (community veggie basket) in Riobamba, is a client of our grassroots consulting service. La Caja Solidaria, UTOPIA’s internal savings group, is seeking to expand its function: as demand for savings groups in local area increases, UTOPIA hopes to help create and give advice to other savings groups. Last week, we created a guidance manual for UTOPIA, outlining a step-by-step road map for creating and improving a savings element in work associations. 


Campaign publicity with local entrepreneur Rosa. 


My friend challenged me before the summer to learn 10,000 Spanish words during my time in Ecuador (~200 words per day). I am going to be honest here and admit that I have obviously failed to do so. Even so, I am still proud of and grateful to my homestay families (well, and myself) for taking the 10,000-word challenge and making efforts to immerse me in the Spanish language context. From week 1, when I didn’t know a single word in Spanish, to week 8, when I can do basic communications with my Ecuadorian families, tremendous efforts have been made. My three favorite Spanish activities are chatting with my host families (including babysitting my 4-year-old sister in Pulingui), conducting door-to-door publicity on campaign days, and doing consulting presentations in Spanish. Muchas gracias to everyone who listened to me patiently and who corrected my mistakes in our conversations!

IMG_20150720_083904_mr1437401257097 IMG_20150719_211353_mr1437360456693 IMG_20150710_205310_HDR

My host family in Pulingui. I couldn’t ask for a better pair of host siblings. 


“Do what you are afraid of doing, and you will discover that you are much stronger than you thought.” I don’t remember who said this to me, but I will forever remember what reminded me of this quote – our Chimborazo hike.

Hiking is a major part of our downtime in Ecuador. And to be honest, I was afraid of it in the beginning. High elevation makes it difficult to breathe; steep slopes and deep mud slow down our paces; rolling rocks increase the difficulty and risk… However, as we hiked mountains after mountains, I gradually found myself at ease and even excited. Our biggest hiking highlight is in Chimborazo, the tallest mountain in Ecuador. We set out for the hike last Thursday, hoping to meet up with Baltazar Ushca, the last “ice merchant,” on the top of the mountain by 2 pm. The ice beyond the snowline of Chimborazo is well-known for its sweetness. Harvesting ice and bringing it down from the mountain have thus been a local tradition for hundreds of years. However, as less and less people were willing and able to take up the job, this tradition has been in danger of dying. Baltazar is the last “Chimborazo iceman” in the world. Every Thursday, he goes to Chimborazo and brings down the ice to sell in local markets with drinks. It was a tough hike, as not only was the trial steep and rocky, but it was also raining and hailing, making it harder to see and breathe. As we mounted higher, the wind grew much fiercer, blowing small, sharp particles of hails into our faces. At some point, it was difficult to even open our eyes. Our faces and lungs hurt from the hail and the breathing, and each small step seemed to take hours. However, Team Oportuni-squad made it to the top and we were in great honor to witness the Baltazar harvesting Chimborazo ice.

After the Chimborazo hike, I felt that I could do anything. I enjoy overcoming my fears, which has made this summer even more unique and memorable. You Only Live Once, and life is too short to skip Chimborazo.


Baltazar harvesting ice in Chimborazo. 


Team “Oportuni-squad” made it!!

Muchas gracias to those who have been reading my stories so far. Also, I want to thank SIBC and HYSP for offering me this opportunity to learn & explore & serve & reflect. This summer is a blast!


BY Yuchen Zou

Ecuador Part 2

I am always amazed by how fast time flies. Three weeks has passed since I left Cuenca for intensive field work in the southern regions of Loja and Zamora-Chinchipe. This Monday, our team returned to Cuenca and spent a week in the city to reflect on our previous work. Next Monday, we will hit the road again and spend two weeks in Pulingui, a small community next to Riobamba. Before I leave internet connections, I want to share my stories and lessons learned from the past three weeks. This blog consists of three parts: a quote, a story & my takeaways, and pictures.

First of all, quote of the month: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson

This is one of the most beautiful quotes I have ever encountered. It will be guiding my principle in all kinds of social entrepreneurship works in the future. We had a thorough discussion about this quote in the past reflection week in Cuenca. For me, it connects with the difference between charity and solidarity. Charity is meaningless without solidarity and mutual respect. There isn’t such a thing as single-way empowerment. All kinds of empowerment are, as I believe, mutual. In social entrepreneurship, everyone’s liberation is bound together.

Next, a story.

I tried very hard to suppress the urge to check my watch. It was already noon, and we still had 20 finance surveys to conduct before leaving at 1 pm. However, we have been talking to the lady in front of us for nearly 20 minutes – only to get one survey done. Eager to practice my (very very elementary) Spanish, I tried to communicate interactively with our interviewee as much as possible; but meanwhile, I was worrying over the team’s time management.

In week 3 and 4, Social Entrepreneur Corps officially started field work in different regions across the country. My team, Oportunidad, traveled to the Southern part of Ecuador and stayed in Ñamarin, Loja and Timbara, Zamora, to implement the micro-consignment model. Our work in el campo can be divided into three major categories: assisting local entrepreneurs in village-access campaigns, consulting for grassroots organizations and savings groups, and finally, developing a financial literacy business model.

Another five minutes had passed, but our conversation showed no sign of stopping. As the Amazonian sun above us became stronger and stronger, my anxiety grew. We were doing surveys regarding financial literacy and institutions in the town of Paquisha. The survey data would later be analyzed and used to build a viable model for implementing long-term, socially-impactful finance projects in Ecuador. To be self-motivated, we made quantifiable goals for ourselves and were aiming to conduct 30 surveys within our 2-hour stay in Paquisha. So, when we were talking to this interviewee, there was only one word in all the seven team members’ minds: QUANTITY.

But we were wrong. The 30-minute conversation with the lady in front of us helped us realize that, in social entrepreneurship, quantity is a very insufficient measurement of success. As we were compiling survey data from our interviewees, we discovered to our surprise that the longer the conversation was, the more valuable information we got from the surveys. The last lady we talked to in Paquisha later turned out to be the president of a local women’s association/savings group. In our long conversation, she offered us not only answers to our survey questions but also detailed information on how rural savings group in the Zamora-Chinchipe region work as well as the credibility of cooperatives and credit unions in the Southern Ecuador. Eager to finish the conversation as fast as possible, none of us realized the value of the seemingly “extra” information to our future work in model-building. In addition, we got to know about the interviewee as an individual instead of mere survey data. The door-to-door survey experience has taught me patience, meticulousness, and most importantly, the fact that QUALITY MATTERS.

This is an example of how I learned and grew in the field work. In the field, where we put social entrepreneurship theories into real practice, I brought a long list of takeaways home every day after work. All the takeaways echo one critical principle: balance. Balance of quantity and quality. Balance of giving and taking. Balance of the time spent in different types of work. Social entrepreneurship is all about effective and reasonable balance.

Here are some pictures from the past few weeks. Despite the busy working schedule, I got to spend a decent amount of time with my host families, who were so sweet that I nearly cried at the farewell party before we head back to Cuenca. I also went hiking, visited some breathtaking waterfalls, and spoke as much Spanish as possible!


I was with two of the most beautiful human beings in the world — my host siblings David and Kenny. Never have I experienced so much mutual respect for culture in this small but sweet family. They melt my heart. It is interesting to observe that when people cannot fully communicate with language, they actually get closer. 


TEAM OPORTUNIDAD! Creating opportunities out of obstacles!!


Paquisha, a beautiful town in Zamora-Chinchipe where we did MCM surveys, held campaigns, and had great memories.


My host dad from Timbara. He is awesome!!


Taffy making activity with Amor y Fortaleza, a grassroots association in Timbara. We did a consulting presentation for the members afterwards. 


Need analysis with our local entrepreneurs!

Finally, HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!! 

By Yuchen Zou

A Cheesy Recommendation in Saraguro

They were frantically yelling at each other across a large room. Twenty or so families depended on the success of this cooperative and not all was in order. We were about to present our recommendations (¡in Spanish!) to this cheese cooperative in Saraguro, Ecuador.

A sustainable Ecuadorian life contrasts greatly from that of an American. People do not strive to work in corporate Ecuador; that path does not exist. The people live off of the land. These local farmers had been selling their produce for centuries. However, it was time to change. Most recently, local shops refused to purchase cheese on a consistent basis. Not to mention, the large markup shopkeepers would take. The farmers decided to form a cooperative.

Amongst twenty families, organizing a cooperative would not be easy. Many families had to travel miles through the mountainous region to attend meetings. Many did not show up at all. Most were at the will of their farms. Agrarian work is intense. Meanwhile, the group was at an impasse, having a location to process and sell the cheese but lacking governmental health approval. The cooperative needed centralization. Twenty families could neither regulate each other nor control quality.

We decided that it was most important to create an organizational structure that could adequately handle day-to-day operational demands and maintain order within the cooperative. Initially, we hypothesized that the organization could function just like a family business in the U.S.: a manager, a part-time accountant, and a few other operating employees would do. We were naïve to business in Ecuador. Accountants did not need a college education; some did not even graduate high school. The accountant would also need to operate the business. We decided to address the top of the structure. Who amongst the cooperative members would make executive decisions? We created an elected board so that the families did not need to travel so often. That board would then be responsible to hire three team members, one with a background in cheese making, another with retail experience, and the third with accounting knowledge. Surprisingly, the group not only understood my broken Spanish but also liked our idea.

Quality control was the more difficult question. Quite frankly, none of us knew even how to make cheese, so we started by visiting the facility. Here’s how it works: farmers milk their cows and process it into quesillo. They then sell the quesillo to the cooperative that processes it. Voila: cheese. Unfortunately, we discovered two main barriers to controlling quality. First, each cow grazed on different pastures and ate different feed. The cooperative needed to standardize food. Although this would be a long-term goal, group could not do this immediately. In the mean time, however, the cooperative needed to purchase the milk and ensure that the quesillo process was standardized. A variable quesillo would make an unreliable cheese (and no one likes hair in their cheese!). The group agreed. I wish the cheese cooperative the best as they grow and hope one day I can buy some fresh cheese from the group in the U.S.!

My homestay niece. Go Irish!

My homestay niece. Go Irish!

Colin, Monica, and I during the campaign.

Colin, Monica, and I during the campaign.

Look at the mountains!

Look at the mountains!

The fog was amazing...ly scary when driving.

The fog was amazing…ly scary when driving.

Watching the Ecuadorians make my Panama hat was definitely a highlight of the trip!

Watching the Ecuadorians make my Panama hat was definitely a highlight of the trip!

-Grant Ebenger

Ecuador Part 1

Buenas noches from Cuenca, Ecuador! I am Yuchen Zou, a rising sophomore majoring in ACMS and political science. Sponsored by SIBC, I am currently interning for Social Entrepreneur Corps in Ecuador. This is an eight-week internship focusing on the implementation of the microConsignment model, grassroots consulting, and social impact product development. I started two weeks ago, and up till now we have been taking intense training sessions and Spanish classes in Cuenca, the third biggest city in Ecuador. Earlier this week, we also went to rural communities nearby, where we held financial literacy and water safety workshops for elementary school kids, conducted finance-related surveys, and prepared for our first-ever market campaigns.

Here are some key takeaways from the first two weeks:

1. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

This may sound clichéd, but it has become my favorite quote two weeks into the internship. Flying into Ecuador after three layovers and not knowing any Spanish at all, I knew that the internship experience was not going to be easy. However, within the past two weeks, Cuenca already feels like home to me. My comfort zone has expanded to include more places, languages, cultures, and people. I was surprised by the hospitality I could receive with a smile and some very basic Spanish like “Hola,” “Gracias,” and “Como esta.” I have grown to love challenges, challenges that lead me out of the college bubbles and into other parts of the world. Challenges are making me feel alive and at home.

Last Sunday was our downtime and I decided to hike in the Cajas with my friends. The Cajas National Park is located on the Andes and is very close to Cuenca. It was raining when we started our hike, and because of the humidity, the trials were unusually muddy and slippery. In addition, because we were at a relatively high elevation, breathing became increasingly difficult as we climbed up. Halfway up the first peak, I started to regret coming to the hike. “This is not for me,” I thought, “it is way too challenging and I might be risking my life.” However, after much struggle, all seven of us still successfully made it to the first peak. The moment I looked down from the 12000-feet peak, I knew all the difficult toils were worth it. The view was stunning – and it is the challenging hike up here that made the scenery much more rewarding.

In the coming weeks, all the interns will be traveling to rural areas, where economic situations and living conditions will be very different from Cuenca. This is definitely a challenge, but it is nevertheless an opportunity for me to expand my comfort zone even more and add new insights into my life. Problem is always an opportunity for improvement.

2. “Charity is a bit humiliating; it goes vertically from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is more horizontal and implies mutual respect.” — Eduardo Galeano

The two weeks’ training sessions have led me to think a lot about social entrepreneurship, solidarity, and charity. Galeano’s quote has been very controversial, but I totally agree with him. Honestly, I have been very skeptical of social services in general. Yes, I can build a house for an impoverished family, but how much impact have I made by doing that? Can a house really lead them out of the cycle of poverty? I never think that charity alone can make huge impacts in the world. It is too vertical (and even humiliating) – some people simply offer, and other people simply receive. Whether or not the recipients of charity are treated in a condescending way, most of them are still unable to really walk out of poverty. Just as the old Chinese saying goes, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” To me, charity is an act of giving fish; it may sustain a family for one day, a week, or even a month, but in the long run, people stay impoverished.

The microConsignment model, on the other hand, offers an alternative. The Social Entrepreneur Corps work closely with local entrepreneurs, mostly females in rural areas seeking economic independence, and sponsors them with products and free market training. Through economic empowerment, the business model promotes solidarity over charity. One of the greatest features of the MCM model is that even if the entrepreneurs were not able to make an ideal sale, the financial repercussion would still be on the Social Entrepreneur Corps instead of on the entrepreneurs themselves. With long-term training and sponsorship, entrepreneurs receive the “techniques for fishing.”

In the following weeks, we will be more devoted to implementing the MCM model along with offering consulting services and financial literacy workshops for grassroots organizations in Ecuador. I look forward to gaining and sharing more insights into social entrepreneurship as an effective means to promote solidarity.

Here come the pictures:


La Nueva Catedral, the New Church, is the symbol of Cuenca, Ecuador. Amauta Spanish School, our “base camp,” is located two blocks away.


After a very hard hike, the seven of us made it to the second peak of Cajas. The foggy view is breathtaking.


The finance-literacy team is holding finance “charlas” for elementary school children in Laguan, a county near Cuenca.


Local newspapers interviewed us when we were preparing for our first campaign in Sig-Sig. 


Ecuadorian foods presentation is a huge event for the 21 interns. It was held in the Spanish school as a part of the Ecuadorian culture sessions.


Spotted in Bella Cuba, a famous restaurant in downtown Cuenca. Me gusta la comida!

Stay tuned for more adventures, takeaways, and pictures!!!

By Yuchen Zou