ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN SEENIGAMA
The Babson team on their first day after arrival, from left to right: Tom Sullivan (Faculty Advisor), Judd Rose, Amisha Patel, Jason Dombar, Suzanne Cover, Mike Pearlmutter, Missy Fine, Richard Raeke and Dave Wilusz kneeling in front.
In January 2005, a group of Babson College students gathered to discuss how they could help in the wake of the Asian tsunami. From news reports in the U.S., the devastation was mind-boggling - entire cities under water, hundreds of thousands dead and economic damage in the untold billions.
We settled on the name the Babson Global Outreach through Entrepreneurship (BGOE) as well as helping with the long-term economic recovery of the region using the skills we had learned as MBA and undergraduate students. For the next 12 months, Michael Pearlmutter and Jason Dombar spearheaded the BGOE effort to raise donations, organize and plan the trip. With the help of Babson alums in Sri Lanka, BGOE discovered and contacted the Kushil Gunasekera and the Foundation of Goodness.
The logo that Babson students designed for the Seenigama Handicrafts Centre
From 5th to 17th January 2006, we realized the culmination of our efforts as eight students and faculty advisor the Rev. Dr. Thomas Sullivan traveled to Seenigama, Sri Lanka, to assist in the village's economic recovery. Before the trip, many students worried if they could have any impact they learned in two weeks that their classroom skills could have a real-world impact. We also were concerned how we would be received by the village. Within minutes of arriving in Seenigama, the villagers allayed our concerns.
Around Seenigama, remnants of the disaster remain. Yet we were surprised and touched by the resiliency and hospitality of the residents of Seenigama. We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to help in any small way. For us, it was exciting to watch the village rebuild and new enterprises grow in the wake of this tragedy. Babson MBA students Judd Rose and Michael Pearlmutter and undergraduates Amisha Patel and Missy Fine worked with women in Seenigama to help market and expand their handicrafts center. Babson MBA student Dave Wilusz and undergraduate Suzanne Cover worked with a brush factory to hone its operations and create an incentive program for its workers. And MBA students Jason Dombar and Richard Raeke worked with the 18 store owners in the village on forming a co-operative, creating new business ideas and basic accounting skills.
Babson students recommended the need for diversification amongst Seenigama's grocery stores
The BGOE trip was a first for Seenigama, as well. Much of the aid to this point had focused on rebuilding schools and houses while economic rebuilding and sustainability had remained a secondary priority. Each team wrote reports for The Foundation of Goodness on its actions as well as its suggestions for future development.
Although we are half-a-world away now, we have begun working on plans to return next year as we would like to return to Seenigama to continue to help the villagers. From Massachusetts, we also have been working on raising interest in the community from others in the business community.
A village worker, shaping wooden blocks at the Brush Factory
For us, the Babson students, this trip proved a rewarding experience and a clear high point in our education. In two short weeks, we made connections in Seenigama that we will hold dear for the rest of our lives. We are fortunate to have witnessed the optimism, perseverance, strength and good humor of the people of Seenigama. We know that they have made a lasting impact on us. In return, we hope we can help make the same lasting impact for Seenigama.
By Richard Raeke, Babson Student
For more information on the Babson Global Outreach through Entrepreneurship (BGOE), please visit www.babson.edu.