Imagine a simple game that can teach the poor to become successful entrepreneurs. Or a small business that gives the gift of sight for only a dollar and employs the disadvantaged. Or a sanitary facility that converts waste to fertilizer while providing jobs and improving the economy in third world communities.
Now imagine that these, and hundreds of other projects around the world, had all been developed and implemented by the volunteer work of college and university students.
Ideas that seem impossible are becoming a reality thanks to the work of Enactus, a world-wide network of post-secondary students committed to changing lives through entrepreneurial action. With the support of academic and business leaders, these students are making their mark in their local communities and on a global scale.
Business students David Humphrey and Aaron Hoimyr are the president and vice-president of MHC’s Enactus chapter. Along with their advisors, Darren Howes, an instructor in the business division and Jon Sookocheff, manager of the Entrepreneur Development Centre, these students had the opportunity to witness these projects in action at the Enactus World Cup held in Cancun, Mexico last month. Approximately 1,700 students were part of the event with 110 people from 15 different schools making up the Canadian delegation.
“We got to see countries from all over the world come together and share what they are doing to make the world a better place. It was quite spectacular,” said Hoimyr, who compared the experience to the Olympic Games for business.
The three-day event kicked off with an opening ceremony that included a parade of nations with students from each Enactus country, but instead of participating in swimming or skiing as seen in the traditional Olympics, these competitors pitched their projects to a panel of judges to advance to the next level.
In addition to the competitive aspect of the event, students benefitted from attending panel discussions and breakout sessions with some of the world’s top business leaders while debating topics like women’s economic empowerment and sustainable development. There was also a culture fair to showcase the diversity represented within Enactus.
For Hoimyr, highlights of the World Cup included watching the “Broadway-style business” presentation of the award-winning team from Germany and listening to the emotional closing speech of Enactus president who reminded delegates that together, change is possible. On the lighter side, he and Humphrey enjoyed a unique networking opportunity while jet skiing with high-level executives from Home Depot corporate – not an everyday occurrence for MHC students.
“The World Cup is a great opportunity for our students, not only to share best practices with their peers and network with the best in the business, but to learn more about Enactus and be inspired,” said Sookocheff, who described the experience as life changing. “We were very lucky to have gone. It was like being part of the United Nations.”
Howes echoed those sentiments, adding that the event provided the MHC group with encouragement for the future.
“After going, you’d think we would have come back disheartened by the scale and scope of what others are doing but it was just the opposite. Our projects don’t have to be grandiose in size. They just need to impact a few people on a deep level.”
The MHC chapter of Enactus launched last year and their first opportunity for action in the community involved working with Grade 5 students at Elm Street School during the fall semester. Hoimyr and other students from MHC’s business program were asked to teach a course in financial literacy with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. Elm Street students learned basic business concepts and the principles of accounting, marketing and loans. They even participated in a mock Dragon’s Den event and had to impress Sookocheff with their business concepts.
Not only did the project teach students the value of entrepreneurship, it helped boost self-esteem. Hoimyr noted during his time at the school that many students come from a lower income demographic and struggle with issues like poverty. “Kids sometimes feel like they’re stuck. This project gave them the ability to earn money and increase their confidence.”
The results of their hard work were showcased at a Christmas fair in December where these business-minded students brought in over $1,000 for their products.
The MHC group, which has more than doubled in size since this time last year, is currently recruiting new members and hopes to increase representation from all areas on campus – not just business. The Innovate Tournament is just one of the projects the group is taking on this year which will pit college students against a team from Eagle Butte High School to find value in one of the world’s leading waste challenges – the plastic bag. They also hope to continue the program at Elm Street School and are looking for new members, particularly education students, who might be interested in taking on this challenge.
For an optimist like Hoimyr, being involved with Enactus provides him with many opportunities and he hopes others will feel the same.
“My hope is to create a sustainable team. To create something that will last long after we’re gone from MHC. Enactus is a good thing for people who are looking for a job in the future. It’s a good thing for people who want to volunteer. It’s good inspiration for people who want to give back. Inherently, I think everyone has that quality inside of them.”
From left to right: Jon Sookocheff, Darren Howes, Aaron Hoimyr, David Humphrey at the Enactus World Cup in Cancun, Mexico.
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