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Interning in Ethiopia with Cherokee Gives Back

The Minor in Entrepreneurship at UNC has provided me with the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia for the summer to intern with the Cherokee Gives Back program. Cherokee Gives Back is Cherokee Investment Partner’s philanthropic outreach program based out of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Cherokee Gives Back provides Americans with the chance to travel to Addis Ababa and stay in the Cherokee House while they are partnered with an NGO in Addis Ababa to work for an extended period of time. I was partnered with the Society of International Missionaries (SIM) to do work with their HIV/AIDS Care Program. The amount of awareness and knowledge I have gained by working with SIM has been immeasurable. I was able to gain firsthand experience by working with leaders at SIM who are changing the face of the HIV/AIDS work being done in Africa. By changing the traditional way HIV/AIDS is treated, SIM has built a truly sustainable program that is the definition of social entrepreneurship. SIM strives to provide insurmountable care to their beneficiaries by developing a system of home visits and support groups to change the negative stigma of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Whereas traditional HIV/AIDS NGOs just test, counsel, and refer patients for treatment, SIM goes above and beyond the call of duty of traditional NGOs by becoming personally involved in the lives of their beneficiaries to create a sustainable solution to the ever growing problem of this dreadful disease.

When I am not working with SIM, Cherokee gave me an opportunity to also work with an organization that provides work for the blind and disabled called Hulegebs. In Ethiopia there are a large number of blind and disabled people that struggle to find work and provide for themselves. Hulegebs offers an alternative to begging on the street (which most of the blind and disabled are forced to do in Addis Ababa) by supplying instruction to the blind and disabled for making brooms, mats, mops, and other household items. The director of Hulegebs asked me to help him come up with some new ideas for income generation and help writing a business plan to improve the quality of their organization. There are many areas in which they can enhance their operations from growing crops and raising livestock to renovation of an auditorium which is currently unused. Hulegebs is a very special organization to me because the way they give back through their business is something that I too will strive for in the future when I start my own business.

My experience in Ethiopia has touched my heart and my mind, and the struggles that I witnessed while being in Addis Ababa will stay with me and encourage when the time comes for me to create something successful and sustainable. Ciao!