My name is Ben Cooper and I am a rising senior Finance and American Studies major. This summer I am working with Social Entrepreneur Corps in Ecuador as a part of their economic development program. As a finance major, most of my peers are spending their summer in Chicago or New York working at the grind of banking internships. Going into this summer, I decided that I wanted to have a unique internship experience, living in a new place, and working at a job where I felt I could make a difference in the world. Thanks to the help of the Student International Business Council at Notre Dame, I was able to find and participate in an internship that would do just that.
The first two weeks of my internship in Cuenca, Ecuador have flown by quickly. My time has been filled with language acquisition in the mornings, organizational orientation classes in the afternoons, and conversations with my host family in the evenings. When I first landed in Ecuador, I was terrified that my high school and 2 semesters of college Spanish would be insufficient for the purposes of my job. Luckily I’ve been shocked by how quickly the language can come back to me through intensive coursework and being surrounded by native speakers all the time. Although I am far from proficient in Spanish, I know that 6 more weeks of full immersion will help immensely.
Throughout my time in Ecuador, I will be working with the Social Entrepreneur Corps (SEC) and its parent organization Community Enterprise Solcutions (CES). Throughout the orientation meetings we have familiarized ourselves with the MicroConsignment Model of development used by SEC and the products that our entrepreneurs sell. CES aims to empower rural Ecuadoreans by providing them a means of opening their own business. The concept behind their model is that we can loan socially beneficial products (such as water filters or solar lights) to small business owners. The entrepreneurs can then sell the products, keep a portion of the income, and they pay a portion back to CES. By empowering locals to sell socially beneficial products while still making profit, we hope to create sustainable economic development.
Starting Monday, we will be spending the rest of our time here traveling to more rural parts of Ecuador and partnering with local entrepreneurs. After two weeks of training and life in the city, I am eager to get out to see our work in action in the fields. For the following two weeks I will be living in a homestay without cement floors, hot showers, or internet, and I couldn’t be more excited! If you want more information regarding the MicroConsignment model or the organization that I am working with, check out their website or this TED talk by CES founder Greg VanKirk. I look forward to keeping in touch and updating this blog with my progress throughout this summer.
A view above the clouds at 10,500 feet above sea level, near Cajas National Park
One of the many stands selling sweets outside the Cathedral Nueva in Cuenca to celebrate Corpus Christi
One of the 52 Catholic churches within the city center of Cuenca. Ecuador is 80% Catholic.
Valle Giron where Simon Bolivar helped Ecuador gain independence from Spain
Chorros Waterfal above Valle Giron