What began as an effort by Babcock School students to help a Nicaraguan vocational school develop a sustainable business model has widened into a project to foster sustainable commerce in the capital city of Managua.
Babcock School students have been working for several months on a collaborative project with Missionary Ventures International Vocational School, located just outside Managua. The MVI School, founded and operated by U.S. citizen Mike Deibert, teaches students forging and metalwork skills. However, most of their skills can’t be put to full use in the area’s stagnant economy.
In December 2006, a small team of Babcock students traveled to Nicaragua to conduct preliminary research and identify opportunities to help the MVI School develop a sustainable business model. After consulting with community members and students, the Babcock team suggested a new business model for the MVI School that focused on selling hand-crafted metal products made by its students. Revenue from the sales of these products will supply real wages to students and graduates who have few economic opportunities and also help fund the school to advance its mission of educating a labor force. Both the MVI School and the Babcock student team will work to sell the products through various distribution channels to local and international markets.
After the Babcock Student team returned home, the project continued to grow as input from students, faculty, and external organizations increased.
In late March, a large group of Babcock students and faculty will travel to Nicaragua for further work on the project. The group is composed of two teams – one that will implement the school’s new business model focusing on areas such as operations, accounting and marketing; and a second team that will conduct a two-day seminar in Managua for rising entrepreneurs and business owners.
The seminar is the result of a partnership between Babcock students and the Business Professional Network, a Christian-based group of business leaders who seek outreach opportunities overseas and in developing nations. At the seminar, Babcock students and local business owners will discuss real-world issues and business-related topics ranging from human resource challenges to cost-based accounting. In addition, students will spend the days before and after the seminar developing personal relationships with Nicaraguan business owners and creating future volunteer opportunities for Babcock students.
As the Nicaragua project grows, Babcock students will continue to help create and foster sustainable business opportunities that promise to bring financial assistance and hope to one of the most impoverished nations in the Western hemisphere.