Board Member Teaches in Rwanda

Let’s spend a week this summer on the equator? The weather at 6000 feet in Rwanda is quite pleasant, 60’s at night and high 70’s, low 80’s during the day, with low humidity.

Early this month Dennis Hanno led teams from Wheaton College and Idea4Africa to teach 200 Rwandan high school students about entrepreneurship. Doubting Thomas that I am, I had to see for myself the power of the program he had developed while Provost and Executive Vice President at Babson College. He has been going to Africa every summer since 2000. That year he brought students at UMass in Amherst to Ghana and, in subsequent years, students at Babson and Wheaton to Tanzania and Rwanda.  I knew him to be a gifted leader and innovative educator.

In order to convince others of the programs’ value I wanted to see it in action.

In early August, 200 Rwandan high school students coming from schools all over the country descended on the Byimana School of Sciences, about an hour’s bus ride from Kigali, for a 5-day course in entrepreneurship.  Dennis was the lecturer and I was one of 24 Teaching Assistants. The TA’s were a remarkably diverse group including 6 Rwandans and talented FOD (friends of Dennis) from China, Mexico, India, Iran, Abu Dhabi, Wheaton College and all parts of the US.

The week sold me on the power and effect of the program. We each had 8 Rwandan students in our sections and helped them understand how they could examine their core values, consider Rwanda’s needs and problems, and find ways that small businesses might address those problems. They were charged with planning a business they might start and then pitch their idea to others who might help. What they also learned was how to look at themselves and how they might find ways to help their country develop.

How was it?  Just about the most challenging and energizing week of my professional life.

I believe my work as a board member of Idea4Africa is a great way to contribute to improving the lives of others. Idea4Africa is exactly the cause I had been seeking since retiring from my day job!

Idea4Africa is expanding our geographic coverage to include Uganda, just having hired an alum of the program from Uganda, Elizabeth Nakato, to be the Country Director. We need your help to build staff to establish entrepreneurship clubs in both countries and eventually throughout East Africa. Your support will make a real difference!  Foundations need to be convinced that the program has staying power before they will make a commitment.

Let’s do it together.

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