Articles

For Community-Driven Global Development

Voices from the Field: A Treasure Trove of New Insights

Harvard Vicky Xu

“A treasure trove of new insights and perspectives” is how Vicky Xu describes her experience in Africa. “Uganda is filled with people who love to share their culture, their hospitality, and their stories. Starting with breakfast, my host mother would kick off each day with pieces of history, life lessons, and insights. I’d boda to work—a 15-minute ride filled with potholes and ‘good mornings!’ At work, my colleagues and the women we worked with contributed gossip, stories, and language lessons.”

Vicky spent the summer in Jinja, Uganda working alongside FSD community partner, Sustain Micro Enterprise, an organization whose work transforms the lives of vulnerable women and girls. At Harvard University, Vicky is studying economics and decided to intern with FSD for the hands-on experience of working alongside community members. “I’ve always wanted to work on-field in a developing community to understand first-hand how people in the community organize their social and economic system.”

Vicky’s economics studies came to the fore in her project with Sustain Micro Enterprise. “A large portion about development economics is understanding how the different factors affect each other and creating the best solutions to maximize efficiency and growth. Each community is so unique and requires a catered model to help it develop socially and economically.” While in Uganda, Vicky won a grant through the Annual FSD Grant Writing Competition. Her grant funds created a project in Bugoba Village to address the women’s inability to generate income for their families due to both a lack of access to capital and financial literacy. While in Uganda, she started two new lending groups for women—and set in motion a continued pattern of positive change.

Vicky’s project is a combination of a monitored microloan program and a four-week financial literacy and business training program. Taught by an expert local staff, this high-level curriculum will give these women the guidance and knowledge needed to create their own sustainable income generating dream businesses.

As a result of her collaborative work with her community host, the microfinance groups Vicky launched have continued to thrive, and promise to breed new ones in the time to come.By harnessing community buy-in with local energy and expertise, sustainable solutions are possible in under-resourced communities throughout the world.

FSD’s rigorous, rewarding programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America include you in the plan. Interns at FSD program sites work with on-site staff and community development organizations in the areas of education, environmental sustainability, green energy, financial inclusion, gender equity, health, and human rights. Whatever your career goals, FSD internships show how you can bring a world of change, one community at a time.