Four College of Charleston students are in Cameroon this week for the business school’s Kick it Forward global outreach project.
The students are proposing business plans and giving out micro-finance loan applications, eight laptops, soccer equipment and $36,000 worth of educational supplies. They left Friday and are scheduled to return Sunday.
International studies and French major Caroline Upchurch is leading the micro-finance project, which includes educating women before they get the loans. She also went on the trip in 2011.
She said she thinks she can contribute more to the group because she has a better handle on French, an official language in Cameroon.
“I think I have a new perspective on development and nonprofits since going the first time. I learned what actually empowers individuals and what developing countries need,” Upchurch said.
Part of the group’s outreach includes teaching elementary school students and adults about the importance of hygiene and clean water to reduce cholera. Students also will judge a business plan competition where the winning medical student will receive 500,000 CFA francs (their currency) or $1,000 each to start their businesses.
“The goal is to empower communities and provide them with the tools to succeed,” said Dr. David Desplaces, professor of entrepreneurship studies and adviser for the trip.
Upchurch said economic development allows more children to get an education because their families do not have to depend on them to work, which keeps many children away from school. She said providing micro-finance loans “gives women the opportunity to send their children to school and create a more sustainable lifestyle.”
“The ultimate goal is to help women work together and have financial independence to add to their family’s total revenue,” said Desplaces.
To keep up with the students, go to kickitforward cameroon.blogspot.com.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or jmcduffie@ postandcourier.com.