Juan Toro, a Master of International Business student, found himself 8,397 miles from home, playing soccer with children in India, when he realized how much helping others fulfilled him.
“Seeing how a soccer ball can lighten a child’s day is something unimaginable,” he said.
Yet Toro’s India experience went far beyond that game of soccer.
Toro was part of the International Business Honor Society (IBHS), an organization for students with a zeal for international business, during his undergraduate years at FIU. During their spring break in 2016, nine IBHS members travelled to the northern Indian village of Bandhwari, near New Delhi, to help teach women and girls to produce a pouf, an ottoman-style hassock, and other handicrafts, for export.
The students left India that year moved and inspired by what they saw, and with a passion to return to the village to continue the work they had started.
The problem: raising the money needed to get back. That need triggered a multi-dimensional fundraising effort and another new experience for IBHS members.
IBHS’s faculty advisor, Management and International Business Senior Lecturer David Wernick, introduced students to UpNicaragua, a grass-roots organization that works with young Nicaraguan woman at risk for sexual exploitation. The organization raises money by selling colorful, handmade bracelets. The organization offered to provide IBHS with a supply of bracelets that could be sold on campus and split the proceeds 50/50.
They accepted the offer, and Toro and other IBHS students fanned out to various College of Business classes with a supply of bracelets to sell. They gave presentations about their work in Bandhwari village and even skyped with the founder of UpNicaragua, who explained how their purchases could help change lives.
The bracelet fundraiser also led the students to the breezeway of the Green Library, where they sold the handmade bracelets in blue and gold (FIU’s colors), rainbow (for diversity), and red and pink (for Valentine’s Day). The fashionable bracelets were a hit with the students, who liked the idea that their $5 purchase would help their fellow students advance their social enterprise in India, while supporting young women in Central America.
Toro’s enthusiasm for assisting those in need led him to recruit Andrea Alonso, a finance student, to join the IBHS to help organize plans to return to India in 2017, and further the project.
“IBHS is all about helping the local and global community,” said Alonso, “We thought the project was a perfect way to continue our legacy.”
It was a small but important part of a larger effort that got the students back to continue their mission in India.
This is the first of a two-part story on the IBHS India project. To see Part Two, click here.