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Campus Currents

May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2


Sustainable Suggestions

Not everyone gets involved in business to make a buck. Just ask the ten UCSD undergrads who spent part of their summer donating time and money to a small island community in Panama.

Their group, Global Business Brigades, is just one of eight Global Brigades at UCSD—there’s also medical, dental, water, environmental, law, architecture, and public health—who are all working toward global health and sustainable development by sending teams around the world during academic breaks.

The goal was to help revitalize business on the tiny island of Niadup in Panama, and to aid in their economic development, says Natalie Pukatch, Marshall ’09, vice president of finance.

The island, she says, is rich in resources, and has fishing, tourism and a once-thriving, hammock-making business. But the team soon discovered that the community was selling the crabs for ten cents a pound—and the price had not changed since the 1930s. “They just had no idea what they were worth,” says Pukatch. On top of that, she says, only one woman on the entire island still knew how to make a hammock from start to finish.

During their weeklong visit, the team was able to provide the Niadup community with short-term solutions, including some “band-aid” funds to provide the resources needed to jumpstart the island’s hammock business. 

But the brigade’s main priority is sustainability, so they also provided the community with some culturally-sensitive business and marketing tips for the future. However they insist that they are only there in an advisory capacity. “We’re not going down there stepping on toes, and trying to force them to do what they don’t want to do,” Pukatch says.

The students have learned firsthand not only about business, but about community, culture and tradition. “Not everything is cut and dry,” Pukatch says. “There’s a difference between studying and the actual application. We wouldn’t have learned any of this if we’d just stayed at home.”

The group plans to return to Niadup this winter to follow up with the community, and provide additional support if needed.

—Amanda Ripley, Muir ’09





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Not everyone gets involved in business to make a buck.