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Introduction and Pre-Course Assignment

Hello, my name is Ivan. I have lived in New York for 12 years, previously living in Miami. I am 16 and going into my junior year of high school. I have been going to Riverdale Country School in the Bronx for the past 5 years. I love hanging out with friends, playing tennis, and traveling. I have an older sister, Anna, who is 20. My family is part Russian, Polish, and Austrian. I learned about this program after a booth was set up at my school. I was immediately interested in this specific program since I have never traveled to West Africa and I am extremely interested in Senegal’s unique culture. I also have had incredible experiences doing homestays and was thrilled to see that this trip encompasses that aspect of travel as well. I am extremely excited for the refreshing feeling of meeting incredible new people who think differently than me. I am eager to explore the nature of the country, which has an extremely different landscape than where I am from.

At my school, I am part of the Zawadi Microfinance Club. Our club loans to over 60 countries around the world. We aim to foster independent economic stability in impoverished villages across the world. We focus on loaning to women, who are typically given less of an economic opportunity in the existing economic systems of the areas we loan to. I wanted to find a way to connect my work at school to Senegal specifically. I came across the Hunger Project, which is an organization that is committed to help end world hunger. Recently, the Hunger Project created a separate microfinance program. The Hunger Project not only aims to support women financially, but also aims to instill more confidence in them by giving 75% of the microfinance committee seats to women.

Today, many farmers struggle to produce large quantities of crops due to environmental issues such as deforestation and desertification. With less areas to grow crops, many farmers must find alternative ways to harvest, which are at times more expensive. Through small loans of $200-$500, microfinance helps farmers jumpstart their business and hopefully create stable income for the producers. In addition, microfinance allows low income workers to create independent economic areas of stability. This allows villages to become economically stable and reduce their dependence on urban economics. This preserves these villages and helps maintain the unique culture of Senegal.