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Class Explores Economics of a Developing Country

Nicaragua and Kids

 

Two Notre Dame College business professors shared with about a dozen students what living in poverty means in developing countries through a full-semester course and a week-long venture to Latin America.

William L. Leamon, MBA, assistant professor of marketing, developed an international immersion class with the Cleveland nonprofit International Partners in Mission (IPM), in which Notre Dame students spent a week in Nicaragua. The students learned firsthand not only the economics of unemployment but also the wealth of humanity in one of the world’s least prosperous settings.

“The richest experience these students had was seeing the poverty and recognizing that just because you are poor does not mean you have no joyful moments, that you have no happiness at all,” said Stephen M. Hotchkiss, MBA, assistant professor of international business, who taught the course with Leamon and traveled with the students to Nicaragua.

In the city of Managua, the class and faculty member met a woman named Yamelet, who left a job in a cigar factory where she made $2 a week to work for $2 a day in a municipal garbage dump, scrounging trash for items to sell. In that domestic and industrial waste site of La Chureca, she also scavenged leftover internal organs from slaughtered animals disposed of by local butchers—to feed her family.

While the commercial aspects and business acumen are different in Latin America, the College ambassadors still found something familiar: the Sisters of Notre Dame, who operate a mission in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

The Sisters work in local Sangre de Cristo mountain villages to teach youth-orientated programs and income-generating activities, like jewelry making.

Man with Chicken“I never realized how important our College was or how far its arms reached around the world,” said Ralph D’Alessio ’13.

In Nicaragua, the envoys also found other enterprises of interest, including the cooperatives of Esperanza en Accion, Hope In Action, for various artisans and La Casa de Jaime Mayer for those who sew.

And while studying the economics of the country, the students and their faculty learned lessons about lifestyle, language, tradition, culture, geography and the environment, as well.

“Throughout the country, poverty stricken people embraced these students, invited them into their homes, hugged them, showed them what they do. And so, all of the sudden, all that you would think were language and culture barriers were eliminated,” Hotchkiss said.

Their journey included the Mujer y Comunidad, Women And The Community project, which provides accessible health care to the 30 communities of San Francisco Libre, which rely on fishing or farming for survival.

They visited the IPM Project Center for Education and the Promotion of Holistic Health, which works with women in Nindiri to improve the well being of the community, as well as to develop economic opportunities.

The group experienced Masaya National Park and Volcan Mombacho, one of seven active volcanoes in Nicaragua. In addition to all these wonders, the class still discovered how small the world really is.

“It helped me realize that here at Notre Dame College, I belong to something far greater than myself,” said Tanesha Reed ’14. “Because I am a student here at Notre Dame College, I am blessed to have a global connection.”

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Hotchkiss has more than 35 years of professional experience in finance, the majority in international banking— including eight years living and working in Latin America for Bank of America as senior marketing and credit administrator for the Latin American division, manager of the Latin American currency unit and country manager for Ecuador.

Leamon, who was unable to make the journey to Nicaragua, serves as managing director of The Business of Good Foundation in Ashtabula, Ohio, an engaged philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting nonprofits that empower the economically disadvantaged through scalable programs in the areas of entrepreneurship, education and employment.