GRADUATE ANDREW ELLIOTT (‘16) REFLECTS ON AN UNFORGETTABLE SUMMER, THANKS TO A LIFE-CHANGING FELLOWSHIP FOR YOUNG LEADERS.
Living abroad can be a transformative experience. Andrew Elliott has experienced this first-hand, time and time again. From Kenya to Romania, Brazil to Germany, Latvia to China, and most recently Milan, Italy, he has befriended people all over the globe and learned something new from each of them.
A challenging stint in Ghana last summer with the Bright Generation Community Foundation was particularly meaningful, and the former AISG student says the trip broadened his perspective in many ways.
Andrew was selected to travel to Kumasi, Ghana, through the nine-month Global Fellows Leadership Program, which recruits outstanding students to intern all over the world in order to foster global citizenship. His internship was with the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, which produces and sells environmentally friendly bicycles all around the world and is currently developing affordable bamboo wheelchairs. Its mission – providing alternative transport and creating jobs through sustainable use of natural resources – perfectly embodies the fellowship’s values of conscience and service. The combination of empowering a local women-led business, paired with a healthy dose of environmental innovation, appealed to Andrew.
He collaborated with CEO Bernice Dapaah (a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and alumni of Harvard University’s Executive Education Program) to connect the foundation with Chinese suppliers to evaluate future ventures, along with appraising and administering zero-interest loans.
“I was drawn to this program because I am interested in the impact that zero-interest loans can have on developing communities, and there was an opportunity to provide loans raised by a class at Santa Clara to local chili farmers to expand their farms,” Andrew, who’s now in his third year at Santa Clara University, explains.
No two days were the same, which kept things interesting. “I spent a lot of time researching fundraising opportunities for the NGO in the form of grants and crowdfunding. I was also involved in searching for a new profit-making initiative to support the altruistic side of the business,” he says. “On some days I would go with people in the office to run errands around Kumasi to see the city and get a better feel for life in Ghana.”
One of the most rewarding parts? Giving away shoes at a community school an hour’s drive out of the city.
“We went to a local school with 400 shoes donated by the TOMS shoe company, and we went class to class putting shoes on kids. It was a really moving experience to be able to be a part of that and one that I won’t forget,” Andrew recalls.
Due to the language barriers and different cultural norms, it took some time before he was able to get around independently. “Luckily, we had great help from people at the office who took us all around Kumasi and looked after us very well.”
However, one thing quickly became apparent to Andrew – the effects of globalization. He notes that even in Ghana, the influence of China was undeniable; as in some ways China looks to the US, so does Ghana to China. “All over Ghana we saw Chinese signs and businesses, new streets built with Chinese money and Chinese businessmen at the airport. At work, we dealt with Chinese suppliers to find opportunities to buy bamboo clamshell food boxes and had to download and use Chinese apps and services to do so,” he observes.
Currently a finance major with minors in economics and data analytics, Andrew is keenly interested in the combined power of data and business to make better decisions for our society and environment.
“It’s a really exciting time to be in the Silicon Valley, and I have really enjoyed being around the innovation and forward thinking that it breeds.”
He credits his time at AISG for giving him a solid base to build upon at college. “I didn’t feel like any field was too difficult to try, because AISG showed me that I could achieve whatever I put my mind to.”
Andrew interning in Ghana.
Andrew and classmate, Alec Gonzales, working with children in Ghana.