Event funds to help Kenyan students

Binghamton University students raised money for a mentorship program for students in Kenya Saturday, at a 5K race hosted by the campus chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).

SIFE will use the proceeds of the race to further develop the mentoring program and fund business education to promote self-sustainability. Approximately 40 students participated in the event.

SIFE is an international organization that mobilizes college students around the world to develop skills in business ethics, market economics, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. According to the organization’s Web site, more than 30,000 student members from 45 countries are employing business principles to develop projects in countries like Kenya.

According to Arpan Patel, a senior majoring in economics and history, the organization plans to conduct studies of Kenya and generate complete business solutions that would be practical in the country’s environment.

“We are pretty much going to take them through the steps to start their own businesses,” Patel, SIFE’s marketing director, said. “If they’re going to start a food stand, we’re going to [ask], ‘What kind of competition do you have in this area? What kind of products do you want to sell?’”

Patel said the mentoring program, a new project by SIFE, will function as a pen-pal system. One SIFE member will be assigned to a student overseas, for example. This program is also not limited to just Kenya, Patel said, as efforts are underway to expand to India, China, Costa Rica and Eastern Africa.

The proceeds from last year’s 5K went toward sending self-powered laptops to Kenya. The laptops were used to video conference with students at BU, who ran trade simulations with the Kenyan students that were aimed at developing basic entrepreneurship skills. During the simulation, Kenyan students worked on trade scenarios created by group members.

This year, SIFE at Binghamton is undertaking new projects. The micro-lending/mentorship program, for example, is one of the biggest projects in the works. Micro-lending is a common method to financially support leaders in impoverished areas, and to help them develop their own self-employment projects.

According to Alec Hess, a senior majoring in management and the president of BU’s chapter of SIFE, the purpose of the mentoring program is to provide free consulting for grassroots businesses, and to make them as successful as possible.

“Basically, it’s an opportunity for students to get ahead in life, to get capita, to get a loan and financial aid,” he said. “It’s a chance to provide people with opportunities in situations where opportunities aren’t available.”

In addition to SIFE’s efforts, local businesses in Binghamton, such as Mighty Mart, Abu’s House of Halal and M&T Bank are sponsoring this project. Money generated will be distributed to the places that SIFE believes will benefit the most.

For more information about the micro-lending/mentorship program, contact busife@yahoo.com or check out SIFE’s weekly meeting, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. in the School of Management lounge.