Thursday, June 7, 2007

Business Training Camp

Most microfinance programs integrate additional programs such as business training or health education to ensure sustainable development and results. One thing I truly love about HOPE is that country and regional programs are tailored to meet the needs of the local economy and clientele. For instance, while HOPE programs in Africa and the Dominican Republic integrate health and community programs, HOPE programs in Eastern Europe focus more on individual entrepreneurs and children.

I had the opportunity across the week of June 1 to be a part of one of HOPE's business training camps for local youth. It was exciting to see the progress of the youth across the week. They learned about how to plan for and develop a business and then applied their training to the operation of an actual small scale business. On Thursday, three groups of youth operated three business throughout Zaparozhye. One sold lemonade on the beach, one offered milkshakes and jell-o "sundaes" to local businesses, and one offered beverages and games to people in the park. Each business was skillfully designed to meet what they felt the most pressing need for each area was. For most, it was a way to address the heat as the Ukraine has precious few cooling systems. I've only come across two air conditioners so far - one in the office and one in a personal residence.

Each business was successful. All earned a profit using the business training they had received (such as creating a business plan, taking a small loan to start the business, and developing a budget to operate within). Most exciting was to see how they applied Biblical principles of stewardship, service, and ethics to their business endeavors. On Friday, we held a small graduation ceremony and a sort of farewell party for the US team from Grove City College that had come to offer the camp. It is still at times surreal to be a part of this process on the ground - to see training take hold and hear firsthand how these programs change perspectives, practices, and ultimately lives. It remains a humbling and encouraging process...

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