Once-in-a-lifetime experience, lasting impact

Can a handful of students make a difference in the lives of thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of people halfway around the globe? They can if they’re members of the Trans-Global Executive MBA (T-GEMBA) program at Saint Mary’s College. Two recent projects demonstrate the reach of the program.

In the Philippines, a Saint Mary’s team stepped in to save the Livelihood and Enterprise Development Center (LEDC), which assists thousands of poor clients by providing business loans as low as $10. LEDC calls itself “The Lender with a Heart,” but it was “hemorrhaging cash,” said Shyam Kamath, associate dean of Saint Mary’s Graduate Business global programs and founding director of T-GEMBA. “People were taking the money and absconding.”

Partnering with the business school at De La Salle University, Dasmariñas, the Saint Mary’s team suggested that the organization shift from a nonprofit model to a bank-led model, developed a cash management system and recommended strategies to put the organization on the road to solvency. Team member Barbara Norkus said,

“Five people, my wonderful team, made a real difference with LEDC through our research. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I was 62 years old!”

In India, students worked with a nonprofit organization called Mobile Creches, which provides education and health services for children of migrant laborers. Over the past 40 years, it has helped improve the lives of more than 600,000 poor, malnourished and illiterate children. Mobile Creches asked Saint Mary’s to help identify better service models so it could partner with and possibly reform the Indian government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program, which is riddled with corruption.

One of the team members, Dr. Saowarut Kittimongcolporn, used her own funds to travel to India, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand and survey more than 400 people to identify model programs. With the input from the Saint

Mary’s College students, Mobile Creches hopes to eventually scale up its work in partnership with the ICDS to serve 30 million poor children.

“We can get involved, but it’s a drop in the ocean,” said Kamath. “If we can provide institutional structures, we can make a real impact.”