SSE-Kenya was like an incubator, since it accelerated so much learning in a short period of time for both myself and for the participants. As a naturally risk-averse person, I found I was pushed to step outside of my comfort zone, whether that was through day-to-day teaching, interactions with my peers and participants, or participation in the extracurricular activities.
– Chelsea Choi, BCom 2019 candidate
My age did not restrict my experiences or involvement within the program. I was never regarded by my team as simply a first-year student. Rather, I felt that my opinions and ideas were just as valued as those of older team members. At first, I figured that working in a country which was foreign to everyone is what leveled the playing field. Although this was true to some degree, I came to realize that it was a mutual respect between Sauder team members that made us all equal.
– Emielia Dahl-Sam, BCom 2021 candidate
Within the first week of teaching, students had already started asking questions for the sake of asking and creating some friendly banter. It was amazing to see such friendliness even though many of them had only met for the first time. All of my deepest connections with participants from the program were all started with a simple, “How are you?”
– Simon Chow, BCom 2020 candidate
It didn’t take me long to see the incredible characters of our team. I was with people who worked hard—their motivation was contagious. I knew in all situations that my teammates would be there to cheer me on, lend a helping hand, and push me to improve. Being surrounded by these people helped change my mindset on what I am capable of.
– Brielle Man, BCom 2020 candidate
I initially felt skeptical of the impact we could make: according to some Mathare community leaders, their top needs include more space and resources, such as extra computers, but not necessarily volunteers from North America. As time progressed, I saw the true impact of SSE-Kenya in Nairobi. We weren’t there to “give.” We were there to share knowledge, to empower these youths to sustain their own lives, families, and communities so that they could reach their potential.
– Maggie Yip, BCom candidate 2020
Innovation and impact
Social entrepreneurship was a pre-existing concept for the Kenyan students—regardless of their personal or financial situation, many of their business ideas had an underlying mission to bring about social impact in their community. One of my students, Susan, hopes to set up a laboratory to provide proper training to students for testing chemicals, as well as work with local farmers to conduct soil testing and give recommendations on the nutrients and fertilizers needed. Her vision is to one day convert the contaminated water in the Mathare River into a clean water source through various chemical analysis. It was both truly rewarding and inspiring to work with students like Susan and help turn an idea into a business plan by teaching business tools, mentoring her one-on-one, and seeing her pitch in front of 15 community partners.
– Marian Lee, BCom candidate 2020
A pivotal moment of my SSE Kenya experience was at the end of the second day of class, on June 6th, when three students—Christopher, Martin, and John—proudly showed off their products. Chris provided lighting for Mathare homeowners through installing plastic bottles in their tin roofs, Martin made tin lamps, and John made decorations/protection for water bottles. Not only were they not the only ones in class with established businesses (about 40% of our class already had their own business running), but it wasn’t even their main product/service. It was what they called a “side hustle.”
“In Mathare,” Martin said, “it is necessary to have to work many different jobs.”
That moment inspired me. I wanted to work even harder to deliver effective business lessons so our class could have a better ROI on their “working time.” Seeing the high work ethic, grit, and drive of my students, in juxtaposition to their living conditions, changed my perspective. SSE Kenya was humbling—it made me reconsider my privilege and feelings of entitlement. Getting to know the students and their stories and dreams cemented the point that behind any success is the encouragement provided by many people along the way.
– Colin Lam, BCom 2018 alumnus