Utah Valley University (UVU) students have so many opportunities for service and engagement even at the global level. And they can do that by sharing successful experiences in business and entrepreneurship in our mountainous state of Utah, one of the most successful in its economic development in the entire nation. One of these opportunities have taken us all the way around the world, to Africa, where we have been able to teach young girls how to start and open a new business, something otherwise unthinkable for these girls whose opportunities after finishing school are very limited.
The area where we have been working with the girls is Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. While Zambia may be more developed that one may assume without any previous knowledge of the nation, the city they live in is a modern one. The problem is that there is a large gap of income inequality and there are many neighborhoods, which we would call slums in the US. This is precisely where the girls we teach live and in many cases, it is where they will live for the rest of their lives. Students have teamed up from all over the university, with diverse backgrounds in order to set up two businesses and prepare for two more. The ones currently set up already have promising results and exceeded profit expectations from the first day.
This team is called UVU Enactus, and it is part of a global non-profit organization created to move forward sustainable, social venture impact projects all around the globe. (See: https://www.enactusunitedstates.org). UVU is just one of hundreds of schools around the globe. Another incentive for students is the ability to compete for scholarships and prizes every year at regional, national, and world competition. UVU’s Enactus branch has only been up and running for two years but the results have been promising. This one project, however, is not the only one of its kind here at UVU. There is also an initiative to help conserve Utah’s out of control water usage which has steadily been rising while the national average has been steadily declining. Another student has created a model that can be scaled to end world hunger, another project has been helping students in wheelchairs participate in their school’s track competitions. It has been because of the innovation which is at the heart of the school and in conjunction with the support of all staff and faculty.
Enactus has created a partnership with the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU, to team up and present on the sustainable mountain development (SMD) and large-scale impact projects taking into account successful experiences in those areas in the state of Utah. As a leader of the SMD club at UVU, I have made it a priority to participate not only in activism but in community building at a local and global level. By working with non-profit organizations in Utah and combining our networks, we are able to accomplish so much more than originally possible before us. The implementation of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) and three mountain targets among them have been an important priority for our team, which could have the lasting impact around the world and the mountain communities who are among the poorest ones. We, UVU students have proven that just because we are students, have jobs, and are supporting families, can still make a huge difference through service and entrepreneurial projects implemented around the world among the needy communities. Not even location or finances have been considered a barrier, because of the problem-solving attitude that the team has established. We know that our student body supports us, and that we have nothing to lose, but so much to gain. As we participated in the Enactus USA national exposition in Kansas City on the week of May 21st, 2017 we felt so grateful to take part in such amazing projects and were proud to compete with like-minded people and make it among top 12 teams in the nations.
It emboldened us and provided more energy and resolve to be prepared for our participation and contribution to the agenda of the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018. We would like to share with the UNWomen and participants of the CSW62 experiences in making difference in lives of girls in Lusaka and many other initiatives, which highlight how the engaged learning approach encourages students not only to get advanced in their educations, but also to contribute to the implementation of SDGs and mountain targets worldwide.
Josman Cereceres, President, SMD club, member, Enactus