Bobby Samuel and Laksh Puri, Pathy Family Foundation (PFF) Community Leadership Fellows
Bobby Samuel and Laksh Puri are eager to use the skills they’ve learned during their Queen’s Master of Arts in Economics program to go abroad and help improve the lives of others.
As PFF Community Leadership Fellows, they have that opportunity. Mr. Samuel and Mr. Puri leave in November for Uganda, where they will partner with local non-governmental organizations to run a program called Educational Empowerment, offering business education to Ugandan entrepreneurs who have been given microfinance loans.
“Microfinance gives money, not skills. The money does not always lead to a good outcome for the individual because they don’t have the skills to use the money effectively,” says Mr. Puri. “Our goal is to complement the money by giving people basic economic skills so they can run a better business and make a better living.” Those skills include bookkeeping and best practices for running a small business.
The pair will work with two organizations, the Strategic Sustainable Partnership Program in Kampala, and the Ainembabazi Children’s Project (ACP), based in several villages in southern Uganda. Mr. Samuel worked with the ACP several years ago as a student at the University of Alberta, spending four months in southern Uganda as an intern at a sewing cooperative. This experience solidified his interest in international development and propelled the idea for the Educational Empowerment initiative.
Mr. Samuel and Mr. Puri realize the steep learning curve they face working in a very different culture.
“Our Master’s program at Queen’s this year has not only taught us to persevere and work hard but also to think outside the box, to think of alternatives to challenging situations,” says Mr. Samuel. “I think with whatever challenges we face, we will confront them head-on and work hard to have a successful program and outcome.”
The PFF Community Leadership Program, established in 2011, is funded by the Pathy Family Foundation and administered by the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC). It offers Queen’s undergraduate or graduate students up to $30,000 for eight- to 12-month fellowships promoting social change in international locations. The program runs until 2014.