My name is Matt. I’m 20 years old studying Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech, and I was a field rep for the 2015 Winter Global Leadership Program. Over my first few years of college I was pretty focused the pursuit of “success” after graduation, which I figured involved landing a job and making money. I started doing web development for a consulting firm and things seemed to be falling into place, but by the time I started my senior year I had realized the path I was on wasn’t going to lead me to happiness. I knew I wanted to make a change, but I didn’t know in what direction. Enter Saha Global. I found out about the Global Leadership Program by chance through an email on my major’s Listserv. The program’s simplicity and elegance captivated me and I was amazed by the measurable impact it had in northern Ghana. I knew that this was something I would truly find rewarding.
The experience was so much more than I expected. I spent three weeks with my team in the village of Takpili implementing a solar electricity business. We laid mud bricks and constructed the solar center by hand, trained four women to be self-sustaining entrepreneurs, and supplied all 80 households in Takpili with renewable energy and light. But above all else, I value the relationships I built along the way. My fondest memories are of playing soccer with the children of the village, riding bikes through Tamale with Peter (our team’s leader-translator-extraordinaire), and learning to drive stick shift from our taxi driver, Hustla.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this experience is how those receiving aid view the organizations providing it. In Takpili, a village that already had a Saha water business, the village elders were completely receptive towards our propositions for implementing a solar business. They trusted us because of the level of commitment Saha had already demonstrated in monitoring the village years after implementation. In contrast, they expressed to us how they often see organizations come through and make promises of improving quality of life only to find that what they provided was extraneous. There were remnants of projects that were started but unbeknownst to the village, got caught up in red tape and were never finished. It really helped me appreciate the work Saha is doing, from the comprehensive village scouting and research beforehand to the five year post-implementation plan for village independence.
The Global Leadership Program shaped the way I think about my future. I know now that I want to work in international development, ideally in a field that also incorporates my engineering background. Currently I’m finishing up my undergraduate degree, looking to graduate in the spring, but I’m excited to stay involved with Saha in the future.
Want to learn more about Matt’s experience or have any specific questions? Matt would be happy to tell you more and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Also keep up with what Matt is up to now here!