Undergraduates Spend Part of Summer Break Serving the Underserved in Dominican Republic
May 27, 2016
(L-R) Student Briana Scott, with the group’s translator, small
When five students from the School’s Hyperion Council traveled to the Dominican Republic in May to offer consulting and training to underserved communities, they came back with unexpected lessons.
Participants said they were surprised to learn how much culture, generosity and flexibility matter in business – humbling insights gained on a trip during which they saw of the worst poverty they’d ever seen.
“Before we went, we’d prepared a lot of materials and did a lot of research. But when you get there on the ground, it’s different,” said Jake Beck, 21, who just completed his junior year and majors in economics and ecosystems policy. “You’ve just got to roll with it.”
Students said they thrilled in finding ways to assist six micro-entrepreneurs, applying their classroom studies to real business problems. One colmado owner immediately adopted an accounting system that the group suggested to track income, expenses and profits at her tiny convenience store.
“To see that immediate impact helped validate what we were doing and gave me more motivation,” said Briana Scott, 22, who just graduated and double-majored in accounting and visual journalism.
Yet the colmado owner also told the group that she’d keep extending credit to customers, just as others had helped her in tough times – even if that cultural practice cut into her potential profits.
“We needed to understand that it’s not just about making money. It’s about sharing resources and creating relationships. It’s a kind of “paying it forward” mentality,” said Riva Trivedi, 21, the Council’s outgoing secretary general.
“Honestly, so much of it was them being generous,” said Trivedi, who is entering her senior year and majors in finance, legal studies as well as health sector management and policy. “They don’t have much for themselves, and yet they are giving. It’s inspiring.”
Students also learned that high-tech solutions for business may not work everywhere. Their initial suggestions for a painter of Haitian background to beef up his website proved unrealistic. The group eventually found a way for a nonprofit with better tech skills and internet access to help the artist.
Perhaps most emotional and humbling for the group was seeing extreme poverty in a Haitian batey community, where the students taught budgeting workshops for children and parents at a school.
Scott said the Caribbean trip changed her perspective, making her appreciate more what she has and value more how others persevere. She’s also more determined now to master Spanish to communicate better. She summed up the experience this way: “It was one the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life and one of the most rewarding.”
The Hyperion Council is open to undergraduate students starting in their sophomore year and provides business assistance to underserved communities in the Miami area and abroad. Members must be nominated by a professor or student and accepted.
Members of the Council traveled to Belize in 2015 in a trip also coordinated with Peace Works, which manages service trips for university programs.
The Council’s May 17-22 trip to Puerto Plata area in northern Dominican Republic was largely funded by the School.