This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America. Learn more about MSEC here.
I just got back from spending two weeks in a small Ecuadorian town called Pulingui. It’s a wonderful community, with ridiculously friendly families who all grow/raise the majority of their food. Here’s a great picture taken by a fellow intern to give you an idea of what the community looks like:
That huge snow-capped mountain in the background is called Chimborazo. It’s actually the farthest point on earth from the core, so it attracts quite a few tourists to Pulingui and other nearby communities. We were lucky enough to hike about halfway up and see this (incredibly impressive) man do his job. It’s a super old tradition where an “iceman” hikes up Chimborazo with his donkey and picks off ice-blocks to sell in a nearby town. It started before there were freezers and ice-machines, but it remains for the tourists who either want to watch the process, or try a drink made with ice from Chimborazo.
While in Pulingui, we did consulting for two organizations. Our group of 13 split into two teams, so each person only worked on one project. My team provided consulting for a “community basket” group called Fundación Utopia. They purchase a variety of organic produce from several local farmers and distribute it into bags for each member family. The end result is a cheap bag of diverse, organic, locally-grown produce available every 2 weeks for each member family. They highly value the relationship between member families and farmers and go to great lengths to help them interact. This was my first experience with consulting, and I really enjoyed brainstorming solutions to their problems. I look forward to the other consulting opportunities we have ahead of us.
We also visited a community of Pulingui called Salinas for a “marketing day”, followed by a “campaign day” where we sold our products out of the central community office. We sell quality of life products like energy-efficient lightbulbs, water filters, seeds, and prescription glasses. We also provide free eye exams so people have a risk-free way of learning if they need glasses. Most of us interns tried out several tasks, found something we were good at, and stuck to it. I spent most of my time walking around the community, handing out fliers and telling locals about what we were doing there. It was really rewarding seeing people light up when I told them we have free eye exams and cheap glasses. It can be easy to forget that these products really do improve the daily lives of many of our customers. I was delighted to hear that it was one of our most successful campaigns ever in that region, especially because I’m working on the first SEC intern marketing team in Ecuador. There were probably many reasons why we did so well, but I like to think we helped.
After a week in our home base of Cuenca, my group is off to the south to do more consulting, marketing, and campaigning. I had a great time in Pulingui, and I can’t wait to get started in the south.
Edward (Ted) Falk is a Junior at The University of Maryland studying marketing with a minor in Spanish. After graduation, Ted is interested in working for an advertising agency or doing consulting. His interests include music (all types), reading, and traveling. Ted was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in Barcelona last year, which was his first major culture shock. Through this experience and others, he has come to learn that there is usually no “right” way to do things. Every person and culture has their own unique way of doing things and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s a great opportunity to learn. This summer, Ted is going to Ecuador to learn how they do life there.