Ian Ritchey (SHP ’10), a sophomore studying Business Administration at the University of Southern California and an active member of the Gamma Tau Beta Chapter spent this past winter break in the west African country of Ghana through Marshall Global Business Brigade. Below is what he shared with the SHS Alumni Office for this Blog (Class Notes).
The goal of our trip was to search for sustainable financial solutions for the rural village of Ekumfi-Ekotsi. With a population of just over 900 people, the town was surprisingly small, yet was home to some of the most charismatic people I had ever encountered.
Upon arriving in the village, we were informed that the community had learned about savings culture in the last year. Teaching the villagers to save for years of bad harvest or to help educate their children was a huge step, but there was a great demand for a strong loan system.
Our group of 22 students brainstormed, met with locals, and utilized our interpreters to devise a solution for their community fund. At first I was confused why the leaders did not call the interpreters translators, but I quickly learned that not everything had a direct translation and much of what we were saying was often lost in translation. After a few days of working with these translators, we identified the need for a new loan application process, a compensation model for the leadership, and further training and community outreach on the role of shareholders in making the fund self-sustaining.
The model was a success, and we issued over 400 shares that week, capitalizing the loan fund greatly. The first round of loans will be distributed this February for many of the farmers who are looking to expand their businesses and increase crop yields.
Not only did we accomplish more in the community than I thought was possible in ten days, but we also had the opportunity to visit the Cape Coast Slave Castle and other cultural destinations. This was truly a culmination of my experience as a Beta and as a Trojan.
Not only did I have the opportunity to apply my business knowledge and travel across the globe, but I was able to do it with fellow Betas. I know that those ten days in Ghana will be some of the greatest memories of my life, and I am proud to say that I will forever be able to share these experiences with three of my fellow brothers.