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Volunteering in Africa

More than 170 high school students in Ghana and Rwanda learned entrepreneurship and leadership skills this summer during the first sessions of Babson’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy.

Kathy McGrath Tarrant ’76 (center, left) and Emily Gingras ’06 (center, right) learn a new card game from students in Rwanda.

Kathy McGrath Tarrant ’76 (center, left) and Emily Gingras ’06 (center, right) learn a new card game from students in Rwanda.

Dan Brown ’09, M’09 (far right), leads a group discussion in Ghana.

Dan Brown ’09, MSA ’09 (far right), leads a group discussion in Ghana.

The program brought together 21 volunteers from the Babson community—students, faculty, and alumni, six of whom are Babson employees—to teach in one or both countries.

Local schools selected their best students to participate in the intensive one-week residential programs, held in Sekondi, Ghana, in late July and Byimana, Rwanda, in early August. Using course materials created and supplied by Babson, the volunteers led small groups of students through the basics of business.

The program gave the alumni an opportunity to reconnect with the College and experience entrepreneurship in action. Kathy McGrath Tarrant ’76, who teaches entrepreneurship and management at SUNY’s Empire State College, says, “I hadn’t been in contact with Babson for more than 25 years. This was a great way to get back in touch and volunteer at the same time. Working in Rwanda was an educational dream come true.”

Dan Brown ’09, MSA ’09, had been to Ghana once before as a student. A CPA at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he says the residential aspect of the summer program was valuable because it gave the students more opportunities to learn how to collaborate, an essential business skill.

Teaching in Rwanda challenged Aditi Sahani ’07, who works at EMC, to think about entrepreneurship in a developing country, where starting a business can be a practical alternative to finding a job due to often-limited career opportunities. Sahani, who grew up in India, appreciated the exposure to another culture. “Even with our cultural differences,” she says, “we all are connected in many ways.”

Madeline Pickering ’14, one of the College’s Weissman Scholars, volunteered in both countries and used her scholarship stipend to fund her travel. Pickering echoed the consensus of the Babson team, saying she would welcome the opportunity to participate again. “During spring break, I worked in Rwanda at the Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center,” she says. “But this summer, I actually taught entrepreneurship. It was exciting and rewarding.”