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Updated: 6 days 20 hours ago

From one of the Nicaragua participants -- great post

May 21, 2013 - 10:49pm

Entrepreneurship, Opportunity, Competition, and Hope. Observations and insights in Troilo, NicaraguaApril 24th, 2013 by  under EntrepreneurshipInternationalSocial Impact,Social Value1 Comment.Written by Professor David Kirsch
Mar 31, 2013Over spring break, my family and I participated in a week-long service trip to Nicaragua run by the Yale Alumni Service Corps, a recent creation of the Association of Yale Alumni. I am not a Yale alumnus, and though my wife went to Yale Law School, she has had almost no connection to Yale in the 20+ years since she graduated. The principal criteria for choosing the trip were (1) it fit into our schedule, (2) it would allow our kids to spend a week with Spanish speakers who did not also speak English, (3) it would open our kids’ eyes to the realities of life in the developing world, and (4) it was time to spend spring break doing something other than sitting on a beach talking about doing something.By all these criteria, the trip was a success, but it also succeeded in a very unexpected way. My own efforts as a member of the “business consulting” group involved meeting with and advising small business owners in the village of Troilo. While other subgroups staffed a medical clinic or put a new roof on the community center or taught in the local school (all activities with immediate, obvious and tangible benefits), I was initially concerned that our “service” was designed to occupy the few of us who were unable to contribute in any other (read: productive) way. But after a week of intensely personal conversations with a dozen local entrepreneurs, I came to see that our efforts may have been more valuable than I had expected. In particular, the experience stimulated me to contemplate some fundamental questions about the role of business in society that I elaborate upon below.First, a word about the setting: The village of Troilo is located in the rich, volcanic lowlands west of Leon, about halfway between the city and the Pacific Ocean. Typical of many such villages, most of the men in Troilo work in the sugar cane fields where they earn approximately $4/day, 6 days/week. The work is backbreaking and is associated with chronic, unexplained kidney disease (CKDu). The sugar cane industry regularly tests employees’ kidney function and dismisses field workers at the slightest sign of the disease to avoid being held responsible when the men ultimately fall ill and die. As a result, adult men are scarce, and Troilo is a matriarchal society. Though signs of grinding poverty abound, upon closer inspection, we saw that Troilo had benefitted from several years of work with our group’s local development partner CEPAD. The village had a health post that was staffed during the week. Two deep-water wells for drinking had been installed by the NGO Living Water in 2010. And, of greatest importance from the business standpoint, the central market of Leon was only 8 miles away, reachable by daily bus or even an occasional taxicab. Each morning our group of 70 volunteers, translators, and local staff boarded our buses at our hotel in Leon and bumped along a dusty, rural road through cane plants that towered over our vehicles. In Troilo, our group of five “business consultants” gathered in our “office,” the open-air church in the center of the village. Each day presented new challenges, as villagers came to talk to us about their businesses, their challenges and their hopes.
Entrepreneurship and development. How important is entrepreneurship in the development context? While the medical team was saving lives (literally, in several cases), what were we business consultants doing to help the people in the village of Troilo? Our contribution began to come into focus after our first meeting with a young mother named Maria. She was a seamstress and had been making simple skirts using a sewing machine that had been handed down in her family. She bought fabric by the yard in Leon, made a skirt or two and sold them to a reseller in town. Carefully, we talked through the economics of her fledgling business. We discussed the cost of the fabric, the thread, the needles, the buses to and from Leon, and everything else we could think of. We totaled the costs on one side of a page of paper: after ironing out some lumpiness, it worked out to 115 Cordobas per skirt. And then we asked Maria how much the reseller was willing to pay for the finished product? Before she could even get the words out, tears began to well in her eyes as she realized the implications of our analysis: 110 C. The reseller would only pay 110 C for a finished skirt. She was losing money on each one! Over the course of the week, as we continued to work with Maria, we were able to help her identify higher value-added skirts that used more fashionable fabrics or newer designs. And to reduce costs, we encouraged Maria to try to buy fabric in larger quantities and take fewer but more productive trips into Leon. To do so, Maria would need a microloan totaling $75 that she would be able to repay in as little as 3 months. And so it was for many of the people with whom we met in Troilo. When we combined basic business analysis with access to very modest amounts of capital, almost all of the clients who came to meet with our team were able to identify profitable opportunities.Is the work of identifying and developing these opportunities more important or more valuable than the work of the medical team? Surely not. As we know from Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs,” basic access to healthcare is more fundamental than putting a few hundred extra Cordobas in the pockets of a handful of Troilo families. But over the long run, as basic needs are (hopefully) met by a responsible government committed to establishing a basic social safety net, these aspiring entrepreneurs may prove to be the people upon whom the future of a new Nicaragua will most depend. The gradual enrichment of these families will both allow for greater Maslowian “self-actualization” and create demand for more complex and valuable goods and services and grow the tax base for future government programs.Nature of opportunities. In my courses on entrepreneurship, I frequently try to convey the idea that opportunities are neither equally distributed nor equally perceived. Some people have access to better opportunities, while others are simply better at perceiving the opportunities available in a given setting. In Troilo, we saw both effects very clearly over the course of the week: the women who showed up to meet with us on Monday morning included a small shopkeeper and several women who were interested in various aspects of pig farming. Though the opportunities available to each of these women differed (some already owned pigs or had more or better experience with various aspects of the process), each had somehow perceived that our arrival represented an opportunity. As the week wore on, several additional people interested in pursuing the same kinds of opportunities also appeared. Perhaps these latecomers heard about us from the early birds, or perhaps they directly observed us offering advice and decided that they too should seek our help. Regardless, our team noticed that the latecomers were decidedly less energetic, less knowledgeable and, in our opinion, less likely to develop successful businesses than the first arrivals. How did the first group learn that we were coming? We did not survey our clients, so we cannot know, but through whatever multiple information channels exist in Troilo, the early birds both became aware of our arrival sooner and judged (hopefully correctly) that working with us represented an opportunity to improve the prospects of their businesses faster than did their late-coming neighbors. In Troilo, the early bird gets the pig.Competition, growth and inequality. Because opportunities are unequally distributed and perceived, our team faced an ethical dilemma: How could we help the village of Troilo without hurting some of its villagers? This question came into focus as we compared the operations of several local pulperias, small shops that sell snacks, drinks and other supplies. The first shop was owned by Tomesita: She ran a tight ship, and by 11:00 a.m. Monday morning, she already had us buying cold drinks from her shop, which was a short walk from the center of the village. She described her twice-weekly runs into Leon for inventory, which markets there had the best prices, and how she decided upon what to buy and sell. She also showed us her well-kept record of receivables; she offered 15 day-money to those she knew and trusted. Later, we returned to analyze the gross margins on Tomesita’s various products. Just like at home, some products were low margin necessities that she needed to carry like toilet paper, while it turns out that buying eggs by the gross and selling them individually is quite profitable (on a percentage basis). She appreciated our help and quickly saw the benefit of thinking about relative profitability of different types of products.Contrast this to our visit to Roger’s shop, located a little bit further from the center of the village: Knowing the prices that Tomesita paid for her inventory, we noticed that Roger’s cost of goods was higher across the board, and his prices were either the same or lower. Where Tomesita’s margins were healthy, Roger’s were anemic, at best. His lower profitability led to greater working capital tied up in inventory, smaller and more frequent trips to town, and, ultimately, to a sputtering business. Not surprisingly, Roger, like two other pulperia owners, didn’t show up to meet with us until Wednesday afternoon.Could we help Tomesita’s competitors? Yes, and we tried to do so without divulging the proprietary information that Tomesita had shared with us. But what are the prospects for these businesses? The hard truth is that not only was Tomesita’s shop more efficient and productive than her competitors today, she was also better positioned to benefit from our advice and therefore to further extend her advantage. This inequality is one of the driving forces of entrepreneurial capitalism, and it operates in a village in Nicaragua just as surely as it does in any other market context. Up to a point, advantages and disadvantages both cumulate, and while we might be able to postpone Roger’s day of reckoning, eventually, the actions of the market would seal the fate of his pulperia.And here arose the ethical question: because of Tomesita’s advantaged position, we were effectively helping her more than her competitors. Were we, therefore, accelerating the market pressures that had thus far spared the owners of the less competitive pulperias? Surely our purpose was not to hurt any of the business owners in Troilo, but by their very nature, entrepreneurial actions create disequilibrium, and by encouraging and sharpening these actions, we were increasing the rate at which these changes would be felt in the community.Observations and insights. Finally, I will share three brief vignettes from our time in Troilo that capture unique aspects of the experience.Luis and Jeff. Jeff, one of our consulting team members, had recently retired from a senior position in a major, multi-national consumer products company where he had overseen sales for the entire Latin American market. Luis, one of our clients, was a craftsman who made bracelets, rings and other trinkets that he sold to resellers in Managua. He was referred to us by the health clinic where he had presented with mild depression and signs of possible repetitive strain injury. He seemed talented but was incapable of earning enough money to support the extended family for which he was responsible. Under the circumstances, who wouldn’t be at least a little depressed? Our team met with him over the course of several days, carefully teasing out the economics of his business. He needed $150 to buy a machine that would both ease the pain of his work and increase his productivity three-fold. The economics favored a micro-loan, but the amount was twice what we had been contemplating with the other villagers. Then, in a stroke of inspiration, Jeff invited Luis to offer his products to our group members after lunch. While Luis was getting ready, Jeff asked what various items would cost, and Luis quoted him the wholesale prices that he was used to receiving from his buyers in Managua. Jeff’s second insight saved the venture: You are selling to individuals so charge retail prices. Luis grossed over $100 in a single hour, committed to save $75 of it towards the purchase of his machine (the rest will be provided via microloan), and went home a much happier man.Two observations struck me: First, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sight of Jeff helping Luis, the global sales executive with vast knowledge and experience acquired across decades and continents providing simple actionable advice to this struggling craftsman. I didn’t ask, but privately I estimated Jeff’s consulting fees at $15,000-$25,000 per day, yet here he was in Troilo helping Luis. Variations upon this moment were repeated time after time during the week, but in this instance it seemed especially poignant, and it spoke volumes to me about the members of this Yale Alumni Service Corps group of volunteers and about the broader merits of service.  Second, I noted that the critical source of revenue was our own groups’ pocketbooks. We all paid a little more than the market required (after all, Luis was prepared to sell at his wholesale price), but importantly, we did not simply collect $100 and hand it to Luis. I suspect that had we started handing out small bills, chaos would have ensued, much as it did when Abbie Hoffman famously threw a wad of bills from the observation deck at the New York Stock Exchange. But with Luis selling his goods, the act of exchange transferred wealth in an orderly process. The magic of the market created value for all involved.Our better selves. Among the less competitive pulperias that we advised, two were located in or directly in front of the elementary school. As with all of the clients who came to talk to us, we first asked each of the proprietors to tell us about her customers and the products they buy. In these cases, both pulperias sold snacks and sodas to the school children. As we looked at all the “empty calories” available for the youngest kids to buy with an extra Cordoba or two and tried to imagine how to increase sales for these women’s shops, I thought about how long and hard-fought the battle had been to get sugary soft drinks removed from school cafeterias in the U.S. Could we possibly have encouraged the women to offer healthier choices? Could the kids have afforded alternatives to sugar and salt? On the one hand, citizens of both Nicaragua and the U.S. face the challenge of “food sovereignty,” the ability for a community to determine sustainable relationships to the production of food. But let’s face it: this challenge is much easier to address with resources than without them, and seeing hungry children spending scarce resources on processed, packaged snacks brought this point home.Micro-consignment. My final observation concerns the commodification of networks through social marketing. Community Enterprise Solutions (CES) is an NGO whose Nicaraguan field director (Tim) visited Troilo at our invitation. CES’s development model is an extension of microfinance whereby the NGO provides business training and fronts would-be entrepreneurs inventory of socially beneficial products. If the entrepreneur sells the reading glasses or the solar lamp or the safer cooking stove, she keeps a fraction of the purchase priced and pays CES for the products sold. If no sales occur, the entrepreneur can return the inventory and owe nothing. Unlike the typical microfinance arrangement, if the villager receiving the training fails to generate sales, she doesn’t owe anything more than the original, unsold inventory. Greg van Kirk, founder of CES, calls the model “micro-consignment,” and though I was initially a little skeptical, the women of Troilo were gaga for the idea. To a one, they loved the socially beneficial products that Tim described and wanted to both buy them for their own use and sell them to their neighbors. Even the usually reserved leader of Troilo was excited about micro-consignment. As I thought about social marketing programs in the U.S., from Tupperware to Avon to Herbalife, I also realized why this approach might reasonably appeal to the villagers of Troilo. While in the U.S., we worry about people commodifying too much social capital, in Troilo’s more traditional setting, villagers have more social capital than they need, with few opportunities to exploit it.All told, spending a week in Troilo challenged some of my assumptions and reinforced others. Development is a lumpy, painful process that necessarily creates winners and losers. In the long run, the sum total of the businesses we helped will only provide small amounts of additional income to the struggling villagers of Troilo. But if these advantages cumulate, as they should, then over time, benefits should accrue to future members of the community, in turn creating greater opportunities for subsequent “business consultants” to help them exploit.
Dr. David Kirsch is Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship in the M&O Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Dr. Kirsch is a friend and ally of CSVC and recently advised a team of MBA students enrolled in the Social Venture Consulting Practicum. Dr. Kirsch was also featured in the recent CSVC Winter newsletter.Tags:.

Yale Day of Service is Near You!

May 4, 2013 - 3:26pm

Yale Day of Service is in One Week.

Check out the Map of Service Sites here:

View Yale Day of Service 2013 in a larger map

Saturday, May 11th, 2013:  You are invited to join other Yale alumni and their  families and friends to give one day to make a difference in your community.Feed the hungry...tutor children...restore a park...read to the blind...build a Habitat home...and so much more.What do YOU want to do?            Last year, over 3,500 Yale alumni and friends came together to work side-by-side in service all over the world. At more than 245 sites in 42 states and 20 countries, members of the Yale community embodied the University's great tradition of service in giving back. Local communities were changed by the Yale alumni who live and work there.The tradition of service is rooted in Yale’s past… but perhaps it is more relevant today than ever. There are few traditions as important to Yale alumni as service to others. We know you want to give back, not only to Yale, but also to your community.So take a look at the many service sites available on this website and register for the one that is of greatest interest to you.And, if there is not a site in your area, or if you have an idea for another site, go to the Toolbox page or contact the Regional Director for your area to see how you can make one happen.We hope you will be a part of this important and meaningful program. Join other members of the Yale community who come together to celebrate the many ways that Yale alumni give back!

Music in Nicaragua

March 30, 2013 - 10:20am

It is hard to summarize just how transformative the YASC trip to Nicaragua was for our son and me.  I have tried to capture the experience in a video.  Check it out below -- and please do think about coming on a future Yale Alumni Service Corps trip.  They are wonderful experiences.

Service Corps Trip to Nicaragua

March 24, 2013 - 9:36pm

Just got back from the Yale Alumni Service Corps trip to Nicaragua. About 70 volunteers which included Yale alumni, friends, and current Yale students and faculty, heading to a small village called El Trohilo to work on a variety of projects.  Sponsored by the Yale Alumni Service Corps, the Yale Nursing School and our Nicaraguan partner, CEPAD, the trip had a number of projects.  A group of health care professionals ran a clinic that saw over 400 patients.  Andrew worked on a construction team that refurbished a community center.  A team of business consultants helped local entrepreneurs.   My son, Tyler, and I worked on the education team teaching piano.

I will share a bit more about our trip, sort of day by day (with a time delay), as I did when we went to the YASC trip to the Dominican Republic.

If you read nothing else, please know that these trips are life changing -- for the people we serve and those who go on the trips.  Please consider going on one.

The Diploma Divide

December 24, 2012 - 12:19pm
This weekend's New York Times has an interesting article about the Diploma Divide -- about how the gap between the access to college education is widening for rich and poor children.  As we start to plan for 2013, we are looking forward to tackling this sort of issue in the YASC trip to West Virginia.

Please think about making service a big part of 2013.

Happy Holidays!

Some past coverage of the trip to Nicaragua

December 1, 2012 - 10:38pm
Here is a post from the Nicaragua Dispatch that discusses that YASC trip to Nicaragua earlier this year.

Online ticket agency and Yale alums spent a week helping the impoverished community of El Castillo, MatagalpaA helping hand: a team from Yale helps build a house in El Castillo (photo courtesy Crystal Astrachan)
By Viveca Woods / guest blogger 
March 22, 2012SuperBoletería, a leader in the online ticket market for concerts, theater and sports, serving the Hispanic population in the United States and worldwide, last week sponsored a service trip to Nicaragua by the Yale Alumni Travel Service Corps. SuperBoletería’s corporate donation directly benefited a community in Nicaragua that is lacking most basic services.The small and remote village of El Castillo is a vibrant community of 150 families in the northern department of Matagalpa. The community is in desperate need for clean water, medical care and educational opportunities.Crystal Astrachan of SuperBoletería / Yale Alumn makes a new friend.Residents of this town are eager to improve their lives, but lack the basic tools needed to access simple needs that are critical for the community to thrive.Last week, volunteers from Yale Alumni Service Corps, together with the Council of Protestant Churches in Nicaragua, traveled to Castillo to build houses, improve education opportunities and install water filters in the community. All the efforts were designed to provide long-term benefits to the community.Residents of El Castillo live in houses with dirt floors, and ceilings and walls made from corrugated sheets of tin or wood. Many don’t have access to clean drinking water.The inhabitants currently used artesian wells and rainwater to drink, and have no nearby health services. The local schoolhouse provides students with education only to sixth grade, and residents walk for miles to get a college education or medical care.Yale Alumni Service Corps (YASC) offers an innovative service opportunity for alumni, family and friends. YASC trips are based on the diverse talents and energies of our alumni volunteers to give critical services to communities in need.The projects range from construction to medicine, education, athletics, small business consulting and more. These programs offer opportunities to work with local communities to enjoy a meaningful intercultural exchange and establish ties with amazing alumni who share a passion for service. Visit www.yaleservicetours.org to learn more.

2013 Trip to Ghana

December 1, 2012 - 11:49am

 Invites you to join us to serve in Yamoransa,
Ghana, Africa
August 1-11th, 2013The Yale Alumni Service Corps invites you to join us on a truly inspiring service opportunity as we travel abroad to “give back.” From August 1 to 11 we return to see our friends in Yamoransa, Ghana, to serve this impoverished village and continue the great work begun last year. Nana (Chief) Akwa II, village elder and leader of the community, has asked us to return so that we might, in his words, “again provide hope, inspiration, and motivation.” We are grateful to be able to make a real difference. Last summer more than 150 alumni, family, and friends participated in this life changing service project. We need YOU for:
  • Education and Arts: Teachers willing to share their interests and skills – music, drama, crafts, hobbies, as well as traditional subjects ‑ with primary and middle school Ghanaian children who never have the chance to learn anything beyond reading, writing and math. Whatever you want to teach, they want to learn!
  • Medical Care: Doctors, nurses, PAs and interested lay people for this village with no clinic and in need of primary care and screening services.
  • Business Development: Consultants to work with local micro-business owners – bakers, seamstresses, hairdressers, kenkey makers, and others ‑ to develop and grow their businesses and get more organized.
  • Construction: Builders to help complete the community center, for which we laid the foundation last year.
  • Public Health: Volunteers to conduct health education and awareness classes including aids prevention, insurance registration, sanitary and medical care guidance.
  • College Mentoring: Mentors ‑ women especially ‑ to coach and counsel Ghanaian high school girls, to inspire and motivate them to apply to college.
  • Sports: Athletes for coaching sports and organizing clinics.
If you want to serve, we will find a volunteer opportunity for you.Alumni – and their friends and family ­ from all classes, graduate and professional schools are welcome.And there is no better gift you can give your children – ages 10 and older ‑ than working side by side with them to serve others. Last year more than 30 children were part of our service corps. They – and you – will learn on so many levels. This is a wonderful experience for families and individuals to change lives, including your own!While serving this village and its gracious and welcoming people you will experience Ghanaian culture beyond what any tourist would experience.We have limited accommodations for this adventure so please sign up soon! The cost is $2,250 exclusive of airfare to/from Accra. For more information, please visit us here or click here to register. First come, first served registration closes February 28th.

West Virginia 2013

November 21, 2012 - 7:28am

Yale Alumni Service Corps

Announces the

 2013 First Domestic Service Trip to West Virginia

June 26th-June 30th, 2013INSPIRE/EDUCATE/MOTIVATEWe are extremely excited to announce the first Yale Alumni Service Corps domestic service trip to West Virginia!!! On June 26th-June 30th, we will be traveling to Huntington & Montgomery, WV to work at Marshall University and West Virginia University Institute of Technology providing college counseling and writing coaching for high achieving low-income local students. These students live in an area that was formerly a strong mining community but has been depleted of jobs and opportunities for many years. Most of the students will be the first generation in their families to consider college so we need to help them have an unforgettable experience next summer and assist them to achieve their greatest potential for the future!!

College Summit sessions with volunteer coaches and studentsYASC will partner with College Summit, an organization founded by Yale alumni J.B. Schramm '86, which has established relationships with local schools in underserved areas of the Unites States to provide coaching and mentoring for students with the goal of increased enrollment rates at institutions of higher education. College Summit has been established in West Virginia since 2001 when they did their first test pilot program and since then they have touched the lives of over eight thousand students from twenty seven high schools. While working in a college setting, College Summit provides both college counseling and coaching in writing college essays along with activities in workshops that fosters student-leaders. 
Coal transport train and river used for coal transport barges & powerClick below for the whole post
Program Description

Our time in West Virginia will start with a Welcome Dinner and orientation for alumni in Charleston where we will all stay for the first night. This will be followed the next morning by a tour of the communities where the students originate to better understand their challenges. We will glean information about the environment of West Virginia and socio-economic factors that impact the student's communities and their family life. We will then be invited to a special lunch on the WVU Tech campus in Montgomery.

In the afternoon the YASC group will separate to their assigned campuses to participate in an intense training program with the College Summit workshop managers to learn the program and practices. This will be followed by a dinner at the colleges with introductions and the most important part, meeting the students. Each day the program will consist of the writing and college coaches working with smaller groups of students using the curriculum provided by College Summit. In the evenings there will be optional activities for volunteers and on Saturday evening there will be a celebratory dance for both mentors and students.

Communities near Huntington & MontgomerySite for YASC- West Virginia College Summit 2013

The YASC program will be situated at Marshall University and West Virginia University Institute of Technology with 20 participants working with 60 students at each university during the four day session.

Marshall University is a coeducational public research university in Huntington, West Virginia founded in 1837 and named after John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. (Wikipedia)

West Virginia University Institute of Technology is a four-year college located in Montgomery, West Virginia. Under the terms of the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, the West Virginia Legislature created the Agricultural College of West Virginia on February 7, 1867, and the school officially opened on September 2 of the same year. (Wikipedia)

At both schools the volunteers will each be assigned a single dorm room on a floor or in a four room suite of the same gender with a shared washroom. The YASC volunteers will eat meals with the students in the school's cafeteria and have access to the university's gym but just like the students, we will have to stay on campus for the entire four day session – so be prepared! 
Dormitory at Marshall                                        Great cafeteria!Seeking 12 College Advisors and 28 College Writing Coaches

We will be looking for 12 volunteers with some prior experience in college counseling and 28 writing coaches who do not need any experience since they be given extension training before the session in order to be the most effective. Each volunteer will be assigned a small group of students to work with and we will strive to empower these students to understand the force of their own stories and words, celebrate hard work and achieve pride in their own accomplishments. The students will be given exercises that culminate with fostering self-awareness of their strengths, skills and how to transform their backgrounds into a strong college essay for their applications. We want to inspire these students to take advantage of the resources that are available here in the United States; however it is the mentoring and personal connection that is the most important part of this program!!
Please Join Us!!

Program Overview: only 40 spaces: 12 college advisors, 28 writing coaches
Dates: June 26-June 30, 2013
Location: Huntington & Montgomery, West Virginia
Cost:  $500, excludes airfare and transport

Cost includes: customized service project in West Virginia; accommodation of a single room in a dormitory with a shared washroom; most meals; local transportation throughout the program; most tools and materials needed for service projects; full itinerary of cultural highlights and opportunities for community interaction.

Cost does not include: airfare to/from West Virginia; travel or baggage insurance; other personal and incidental expenses.

Participants must be over 18

Qualifications for the 12 College Counselors
  • Have at least one year prior experience in college coaching (i.e. high school counselor, college admissions officer, private college counselor, college requirement advisor, non-profit college guidance assistance)
  • Be comfortable/have familiarity with advising mid-tier students from under-resourced communities
  • Have the ability to run a one hour coaching session with each student assigned to you and compile a list of collegiate options for each of them
  • Be comfortable/have familiarity with emotionally intensive situations and disclosures
  • Have the ability to be both encouraging and honest with our students
  • A healthy knowledge of local and national colleges and universities (local knowledge will be supplemented)
  • A healthy knowledge of college admissions requirements
Service Trip Scholarships: financial aid may be available to some participants based on financial need. Please call 203-432-1054 for more information.

Questions please contact:
João C. Aleixo
Office of International Affairs & Association of Yale Alumni
tel: 203-432-1054
fax: 203-432-1926
e-mail: joao.aleixo@yale.edu 

Far From Home, Briefly -- From the Yale Alumni Magazine

November 19, 2012 - 8:48pm

Check out the YAM article about the Yale Alumni Service Corps trip to Ghana. . . .
When the five buses roll into the Ghanaian town of Yamoransa, hundreds of children are waiting on the red dirt plaza in front of a low-slung concrete-block school building. The children bob and shout as 160 Yale volunteers climb off the buses and cautiously skirt the steep open sewer that separates the highway from the plaza. For five days in late July and early August, in this impoverished town on Africa’s Atlantic coast, this scene will repeat itself every morning: the volunteers plowing through the throng, the Ghanaian children reaching out for handshakes, saluting the visitors with high fives, and sometimes crowding around two ten-year-old volunteers to touch their long hair. (The Ghanaian schoolchildren have buzz cuts, boys and girls alike.)Yale Alumni Magazine: Far From Home, Briefly (Nov/Dec 2012)

News from Nicaragua 2012

November 18, 2012 - 9:55pm
So much was accomplished by the YASC volunteers in Nicaragua!  We are looking forward to adding to this list when we return in 2013.  Join us for an exceptional experience where you could be part of:
  • 61 YASC volunteers traveled to Nicaragua to work in the mountain village of El Castillo
  • 24 Yale School of Nursing students and facility partnered with YASC on the program
  • Additional collaborated with the Yale School of Public Health for students and recent graduate participants
  • YASC awarded 11 scholarships to Yale undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates
  • 400 patients were treated in the Medical clinic and excess supplies donated to the local Health Post in a nearby village
  • Health Education classes were taught in dental care, diseases, diabetes/hypertension, domestic violence and nutrition
  • Construction work was done on two brick houses as well as the repair of a road and material relocation
  • Participants assembled 100 water filters and distributed them to three villages
  • Volunteers taught hundreds of children music, geography, English and computers
  • Arts Group worked with students and adults to create paintings, jewelry, friendship bracelets and build drums
  • Sports Group coached dozens of children in kick ball, soccer and baseball and donated new equipment
  • A new school library was established with hundreds of English and Spanish books in new book cases

News from Ghana 2012

November 18, 2012 - 9:44pm
A few months ago we left Yamoransa. We’ve been home for a while now, settled back into our comfortable routines. Hot water. Drinkable water. Air-conditioning. Personal space. Restful nights. Riceless meals. You might be thinking back on your experience this summer and wondering…did I make a difference?

You will draw your own conclusions based on your personal experience, but here is the answer provided by the king of Yamoransa, Nana Akwaa II:  “Before you came we were a village that had lost it community spirit. You helped us find our spirit again. You lit a fire under us. You made us believe that things are possible.”

With your talent and skill you worked with Yamoransans to seek solutions for their poverty and other challenges that they face. Thank you for your collective efforts that:
  • Inspired children with a love of learning, of the arts, of athletics, and opened their minds to a different culture.
  • Provided care for the sick with knowledge, skill, and kind words.
  • Built the foundation for a community center, and I don’t mean a foundation of poured concrete but rather a foundation of motivation and possibility.
  • Formed associations of workers who can better leverage their skills collectively rather than on their own.
  • Inspired girls with a model for success and the message to stay in school.
And many thanks to the organizations and individuals who made this possible:
  • Our program was launched by with the assistance of the Yale World Fellows with an introduction to Emmanuel Asiedu, a World Fellow in 2008. We work in concert with our Fellows all over the world to identify targets of opportunity in impoverished areas.
  • Kwame Otchere and AFS Ghana volunteers including Evans Yeboah, Eddie and many more who worked so hard in preparation and will be working throughout the year to sustain projects initiated by our visit.
  • University of Cape Coast leveraged our time and talent to further build on their already successful social work and research in the community.
  • Unite for Sight which put Yamoransa on its quarterly rotation, providing eye care where none existed.
  • ONE and Yale for setting the stage for advocacy events to be organized throughout our network of Yale Clubs.
  • Coca-Cola for supporting our efforts both financially and with six volunteers sharing their expertise with our college mentoring, education, and athletics teams.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, the YASC volunteers. If any one person had stayed home, we would have accomplished a bit less, seen fewer smiles, taught fewer classes, or treated fewer patients. Most of all, YASC in Ghana could not have succeeded without the amazing volunteer leaders who worked tirelessly in organizing the project teams. Having worked hard to prepare for the projects, many of the teams arrived in Yamoransa to find that quite a bit had to be changed around and adapted to the reality of the community. We are all appreciative of the great efforts by the official leaders as well as those who became leaders during the trip.

And it could not have been done without the help of many participants from AYA and Yale including Johnson Flucker, Nory Babbitt, Alisa Masterson, Rick Leone, Mike Morand and especially the work of Joao Aleixo and the inspiration of Mark Dollhopf.

See you in Ghana next year when we return to Yamoransa and share even more amazing experiences with the community and each other.
Kathy Edersheim: While Kathy was working as the volunteer producer for Ghana, as of the middle of April, she joined the AYA as part of the professional team. She is Senior Director of International Alumni Relations and Travel. Her primary responsibility is for the Yale Educational Travel trips with additional responsibility for YASC and the Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange.

Christine Chiocchio Meets a Little Girl Named Karen

November 18, 2012 - 9:41pm
In March, I was a volunteer on the YASC trip to Nicaragua. My assignment was to document the experience with photography and to create a video for the YASC. I was able to interact with all of the teams and to see first hand what was being accomplished. I also had the opportunity to interview the villagers to find out what impact the program had on their community.  

The most moving experience for me occurred on the second to last day in the village. One of the volunteers, Steve Griggs, brought a petite, slightly, 12 year old girl to me and explained that she had walked over 5 kilometers on her own (carrying her little brother) because she heard that there were doctors there. With Steve's help translating, Karen began to tell us how "all of her life" she has wanted to become a doctor, so she came to ask the YASC group how she could do this. As she spoke, her eyes lit up and she became very animated, describing how she would write out pretend prescriptions for her friends. She was so passionate and sincere, that it was hard to imagine her not achieving her goal. In spite of the fact that few children attend school beyond 6th grade, Karen was already in 7th grade. I decided to make it my mission to help Karen reach her goal.

With the aid of several YASC volunteers and friends, we are creating a scholarship fund for Karen Torcero. I am also looking forward to next year's trip to Leon where I hope to meet with Professors in the Medical Department of the University.
Christine Chiocchio: Christine is an artist and photographer in Stony Creek, Connecticut.  In October, Christine exhibited her photography and videography at the James Blackstone LIbrary in Brandford, CT.  All sales proceeds from the show went to the Karen Ximara Hernandez Tercero Scholarship Fund.

Puneet Batra's Experience in Ghana

November 18, 2012 - 9:38pm

On a warm day this summer, I found myself in the most unexpected of situations – standing at a junction in the town of Yamoransa, in Ghana, running up to passing trucks, peddling Kenkey packed in blue plastic bags. Inside were 8 fist-sized balls of the fermented starch with a going price of 4 Ghana Cedis, the equivalent of 2 US Dollars. I asked my hosts – the women entrepreneurs who produce and sell this corn based staple – how did the truck drivers know what was in the blue plastic bags? It turns out that Yamoransa is known for its Kenkey and everyone recognizes the bright blue plastic bags as containing Kenkey.

I was in Yamoransa with the Yale Alumni Service Corps’ first service trip to Africa. The Kenkey women were one of many groups of women that the business development team was working with. Since we were asking so many questions about how Kenkey is made and how it is sold, they decided that we would learn best by doing it. So that’s how I ended up on the side of the road in Ghana, selling Kenkey to truck drivers. And yes, I did make a sale.
We helped the Kenkey women form an association for handling bulk orders, negotiating bulk pricing, and branding. They even got a logo designed by YASC volunteer, Cynthia Frank. Other members of the business group worked with the bread makers who also formed an association, and helped them negotiate down the price of flour that they buy from the mill. The dress makers were able to create contacts with a local resort where the manager agreed to have them sell dresses whenever a large group of tourists was in town. These are just some examples of what the business development group was able to achieve in a matter of just one week, surpassing any of our expectations.

Meanwhile, the construction crew was busy laying the foundation for a new building which would house the Information, Communication and Technology center, bringing internet connectivity into Yamoransa for the first time. The education teams carried out fun experiments with the children to explain concepts such as magnetism and gravity while introducing them to the scientific method. The arts group had the children create body impressions on Tyvek, create collages and self-portraits among other things. The mural group painted a beautiful mural representing Yamoransa and Yale on the side of the primary school. The athletics team held a soccer “world cup” after which hundreds of children erupted in celebration onto the courtyard singing “Ole, Ole, Ole!” The college mentoring group mentored groups of boys and girls on why and how to apply for college, among other things. The medical team saw over 700 patients in a span of 5 days, treating a variety of ailments and providing treatment as well as advice on how to manage the conditions after we were gone.
In addition to the 150 YASC volunteers that descended on Yamoransa, we were assisted by an army of volunteers from AFS Ghana who helped us with everything from translation to teaching us how to dance like a Ghanaian. We also worked with strong partners such as ONE, the Coca Cola Foundation, Unite for Sight and the University of Cape Coast.
Yamoransa is a poor town but proved to be a very rich experience. I can’t forget our Kenkey women hosts walking us back after my successful sale, insisting on buying us soft drinks that cost what some of these women make in a day. While I can only hope that we helped the community of Yamoransa in at least a small way, I’m thankful for the kindness they showed us and the personal bonds that were formed, despite all our differences. I can’t wait to go back next year.
Puneet Batra: Puneet continues his role with the YASC back in the States as Secretary of the YASC.  He will return to Ghana in 2013 as co-leader along with Lata Prabhakar.

Tannis Arnett's Interview with Darcy Pollack of One

November 18, 2012 - 9:32pm
What were your expectations for the partnership between ONE and YASC in Ghana?

Our hope was that by bringing ONE representatives on the trip with us, we could tap into the engagement our volunteers felt while in Ghana and encourage them to bring that passion home in way that could continue to have impact, specifically via advocacy. It is great when you are there, on the ground, and can actively help… but how do you continue to help when you get home? That’s where ONE comes in. The ONE Campaign is an advocacy network. They are not a fundraising organization; they are a “voice raising” organization. ONE sent four staffers on the trip with us: the U.S. Field Director, a regional Field Director, a policy expert and a trip logistics specialist. The idea was that they would (1) take us on local site visits so that we could see for ourselves programs that are having an impact on the ground, and (2) teach us about advocacy – what it means to advocate and how one does that. Our hope was that our volunteers would choose to continue their service by becoming members of ONE and advocating on behalf of the programs we saw on the ground -- programs that are changing people’s lives.

What were the highlights – what was your favourite activity/project?

As soon as I start to say one site visit or another was a highlight, I change my mind… they were all amazing! Perhaps most moving was meeting the cocoa farmers who are being advised by an NGO called Technoserv. Technoserv has helped them to navigate complex trade laws and certification requirements (like “Fair Trade” and “organic”), as well as provided them with much needed advice on fertilizers, pesticides and farming best practices. We saw one farm that was being helped by Technoserv, and it was so clean and prosperous. The farm across the road was not so lucky… they were not being aided by Technoserv, and it looked like a wild jungle. But the real difference? The farmers with Technoserv are making enough money to send their children to school… a first!

Was there a moment of illumination on the trip? Is there one big insight you gained from your experience? 

When we went to see a couple of the local fishing villages, it became apparent to me for the first time just how very complex the issues are that are facing these communities. This one village we visited had had six homes washed into the sea last year due to coastal erosion. And their fish stocks are being devastated by pollution and overfishing. You can’t just “solve” problems like these. It will truly take a global village to figure this out. That’s why we all need to be aware of how important U.S. funding is to programs like the Coastal Resources Center, which we saw doing phenomenal work in this village. That’s why we all need to be advocates!

How would you define sustainability?

Work that has a lasting impact.

How can this partnership be strengthened next year? What do you hope to achieve?

We hope that ONE will choose to join us again for our YASC trip to Ghana next summer… and that we can take even more people on these incredible site visits that they organize! There is no question in my mind… once you have seen these programs with your own eyes, you can’t help but work on their behalf. It is that powerful. My goal for next year? To encourage all our volunteers to become story tellers… to bear witness to the incredible work these programs do and in that way to advocate on their behalf!
Darcy Troy Pollack  A graduate of both Yale College and Harvard Business School, Darcy's career has spanned the investment banking and entertainment worlds at companies such as Goldman, Sachs & Co. Real Estate, Warner Brothers, United Talent Agency and Sony Retail Entertainment. Today Darcy focuses on entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures, including Bono’s ONE organization, and is an active volunteer with Yale, where she is currently serving in her second year as a member of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) Board of Governors and is Chair of the new “shared interest group” Yale Blue Green.

Tannis Arnett  A graduate of Yale’s Master of Religion in the Arts program, Tannis has worked as a Marketing and Communications professional at TVO, Ontario’s public broadcaster, for over ten years.  The trip to Ghana was her fourth service tour with YASC.  She is currently the Chair of YASC’s Communications Committee.

YASC 2013 Trips

November 18, 2012 - 9:24pm
Nicaragua, March 16-23: The Yale Alumni Service Corps invites you – alumni, family, and friends – to Trohilo, Nicaragua, a village near New Haven’s own sister city of Leon. This service trip, in partnership with the Yale School of Nursing, is an opportunity for you to serve on projects designed around your skills and interests – you can teach children in the village school, care for patients in the medical clinic, coach sports to eager young athletes, work on construction projects, or share your business skills with small business owners. You will work side by side with the people of Trohilo as they strive to improve the quality of their lives. You will build cross cultural understanding and make friends for life. They want to meet you!

West Virginia, June 26-30We are very excited to announce our first domestic service program in rural West Virginia. In partnership with the innovative program College Summit – founded by Yale alum J.B. Schramm ’86 – we will spend 4 days preparing high school students for college by tutoring them in essay writing, reviewing the college application process, and coaching them in leadership skills. We will live with the students – for many their first time away from home and from families who have never had the opportunity to attend college ‑ in dorms on the campuses of Marshall University in Huntington and West Virginia Institute of Technology in Montgomery.

Ghana, August 1-10: We did it! Last summer more than 150 alumni and their family and friends participated in a life changing – their lives and ours – service project in Yamoransa, Ghana, and the village wants us back! We invite you to serve this community and experience Ghanaian culture with your family and friends in a truly unique and inspiring manner.

Interested?  You can sign up by clicking here.

There is still room on the Nicaragua Trip in March

November 10, 2012 - 8:07am

The Yale Alumni Service Corps has its next trip to to León, Nicaragua on March 16 - 23, 2013.

There are still spots available! Not many, but a few.  Sign up today by clicking here.

Join us as we inspire change and help a Central American community in need!!!

 Have you ever wanted to travel with a purpose and really get to know locals? Would you like to be part of a volunteer team that makes a difference in the lives of others? You can! This March, the Yale Alumni Service Corps, in partnership with the Yale School of Nursing, will connect a group of alumni, students, and friends of Yale with the community of Trohilo in León, Nicaragua. In this small marginal community, surrounded by sugar cane fields, our medical team will address acute care needs, conduct comprehensive visits for women and children, counsel for mental health & domestic violence, as well as promote health education. We also hope to make connections with children and leave lasting benefits by using our talents and energy to teach arts, computers, English, math and sports. Our construction team will work to build important amenities for the community including a library, school tables and goal posts as well as potentially renovating public buildings. No matter what your background or skill sets, if you have a passion for people and service, we have a need for you.

China 2011 -- a video you should really watch

November 28, 2011 - 11:58am

China Internal from Brian Wimer on Vimeo.

You can see what the YASC did in China by clicking on the video above.  Very moving.

What we did in China -- YASC Trip to China 2011

November 27, 2011 - 10:01am
From July 9 - 16, 184 Yale alumni and family and friends of alumni traveled to the city of Xiuning in Anhui Province in China  with the Yale Alumni Service Corps. During one week we accomplished a lot! Here is a list of the trip highlights:

* 1300 students ranging in age from 8 to 16 taught for 5 days. Subjects included:-          English through songs-          Book club-          Art of all kinds-          Spanish-          Chorus-          tin whistle and harmonica-          business development-          bridge building-          and much more…*3 quilts made as gifts for the three schools* 3 murals painted at the schools
* soccer, Frisbee, basketball and baseball coaching* Produced America Coast-to-Coast for the final celebration* High School English language library renovated and re-stocked
*5 days of medical consultation with local doctors* visited and advised local businesses
And then the group headed to Beijing to see the iconic sights of China such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Join us on a trip in 2012. For trip updates, visit www.yaleservicetours.org.

Yale plus ONE: Alumni join forces to promote global service and advocacy

November 27, 2011 - 10:00am
Check this out . . .:
The Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) and ONE, a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease particularly in Africa, are launching a strategic partnership to promote global service and advocacy by linking the Yale Alumni Service Corps (YASC) with ONE’s education and advocacy programs. The Yale-ONE partnership will begin in 2012, with the YASC Africa Project in Cape Coast and Yamoransa, Ghana, July 27–Aug. 7, 2012.YaleNews | Yale plus ONE: Alumni join forces to promote global service and advocacy

YASC Trip to Ghana

November 27, 2011 - 9:59am
The Yale Alumni Service Corp has two great trips scheduled for 2012 – one is to Nicaragua and the other is to Ghana.

Here is the scoop on Ghana.

From July 28 through August 6 (then back to Accra) you, our volunteers, will be stationed in the town of Cape Coast where the University of Cape Coast has been working to help the local communities including Yamoransa to address the critical issues of poverty, health and education.

Yamoransa is a community of approximately 4,700 people situated on the main road that runs between Accra and Cape Coast. There are three schools and many children in the community. The main business of the community is the production of fante kenke, a typically Ghanaian food made of corn, primarily prepared by the women. For a variety of reasons and particularly because the women are the producers of fante kenke, there is a high drop-out rate of girls from the schools. In the early grades school there are slightly more girls than boys yet the drop-out rate for girls is so high that by 10th grade, 70% of the students are boys. There are no medical facilities in the community.

The Chief of Yamoransa in cooperation with the University has identified a number of projects that would provide meaningful assistance to the community. We are prepared to help them in many ways from medical services to education to micro-business consulting to needs assessment.

Click below for all of the details

Ghana 2012 - Main Page