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.
As my trip comes to an end I can safely say that my perspective on the world has changed drastically. This was my first time truly being exposed to development work. The two biggest things that I determined about this kind of work from my experiences in Ecuador are that it is a very slow process and that it is imperative for the planet.
In order to effectively identify the problems that are affecting people in their everyday lives, you need to be able to connect with them and understand them on a multitude of levels, which means understanding their culture. I come from such a different place and have learned life in a completely different way. Sometimes the way I think and how I would solve problems is not necessarily the best way to solve the problems of the people I am trying to help. What I learned is that you must build relationships with the people first. Sometimes they do not want to open up right off the bat and tell you truthfully how hard their lives are and the struggles they face. However, once you share meals with them, play with their children, and share the soccer field, they begin to unveil their feelings and you can finally start to identify the roots of what is causing so much hardship. When I first arrived in Ecuador I thought I knew what I needed to do and had all the answers. What I found out is that I had to take a step back, observe and listen.
The other aspect of development work that became crystal clear was just how important it is. Some of the people we came in contact with and helped did not think it was possible that the water they were drinking could make them sick, or that their vision could be corrected with two small pieces of glass, or that they could immensely improve their business by becoming just slightly more technologically literate. Again, things that I had grown up with that are common knowledge for my people are foreign concepts elsewhere in the world. Then I realized that all of the work that I was doing was just in a small sliver of Ecuador. There are countless other countries that need help and the only thing that will deliver assistance is people who hear the call to take action. Development does not pay well and might not be the best option to take if you want to start to build a retirement fund, however it is necessary in order to help the planet get back on track. In this day and age the world is globalized and it is now impossible to ignore the problems that people face around the earth. We need to come together and make the effort to create a better planet for everyone.
Simon Amato is a rising senior at the University of Maryland majoring in Economics and minoring in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. When he’s not studying, he is playing club soccer, working at the Urban Butcher, or running FroDoh, a frozen donut hole company he started this past semester.