Creating Social Value Blog / Service in Action

Babson’s efforts in El Salvador: An outsider’s perspective

This is my second summer coming to Getsemaní, El Salvador and it is the highlight of my summer. On this trip I am the only person who does not have a direct contact to Babson; I am neither a student nor an administrator. I attend Providence College and have zero experience in the world of business. It is always interesting at dinner being surrounded by individuals so business minded and discussing what tools they were going to implement in their lessons the next day. I sit, smile, and pretend that I know what profit margin, product differentiation, and COGS mean. Then I take a mental note of these terms so I can look them up later and try to use them in a sentence. Although I am not business savvy, I feel that I am making a difference here in El Salvador.

While the Babson students and faculty teach entrepreneurship, I stay on the worksite and help construct a home. I am far from qualified to build a house and have no business being around concrete blocks or hammers. Thank goodness the masons do not realize this and they allow me to mix cement, fill holes with chispa (cement), and hand them blocks as if I am one of them. This acceptance by complete strangers to me is what makes me love this country. The masons don’t care that I am not from Babson or have no business experience, they care that I am ready to work and giving my best into every task that I am assigned. Last year, when I first came on the trip, I was nervous because I had never swung a hammer, never mind getting up on scaffolding to place concrete blocks to make a wall and had no business terms to add to the dinner conversation. It turned out neither was a problem; last year nor this year because everyone is accepting. The Babson students and faculty know what they are doing and say it is okay to stay at the worksite because that is where you make the difference. They are making such a positive impact on the community and its individuals with the business skills that they are teaching that I want my effect to come close to theirs.

As an outsider, these trips look totally business oriented and only focused on the end goal. While this is true and we do want the community of Getsemaní to become full of self-sustaining businesses, the relationships being built are what stay with me. The complicated business terms only last until the next conversation when even more words I do not know are uttered, but the smiles and the high fives are what I take home. So while all the Babson people throw around their fancy terms and lesson plans, I smile nicely and just think about the people. I leave El Salvador with memories to last a lifetime, the ability to build a wall with zero electricity, and some fancy terms that I can use at Providence College to look like I learned some business skills.

Valerie Chase, Providence College, Class of ’14