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Tyler Confrey-Maloney ’13 Combines Sustainable Development and Higher Education in Rural South Africa

Tyler Confrey-Maloney ‘13 spent his summer living in a Shangaan village in South Africa as a global development intern for the nonprofit organization ThinkImpact. Interns with the organization serve as catalysts and business advisors for local entrepreneurs.

ThinkImpact’s work is based on the model of Asset-Based Community Development, which capitalizes on community skills and resources to create sustainable, revenue generating programs led by members of the community. This model is a departure from development approaches that foster dependency, and approaches that are, in part, responsible for the lack of economic growth on the African continent over the past half century.

Confrey-Maloney assisted a group of three women in the village who launched a social business dedicated to helping high school “learners” apply to universities and obtain financial aid. He worked alongside the women as they helped students complete applications and file forms in time to meet university deadlines.

“It was an issue that they themselves identified and decided that they wanted to help fix. These women created a business that gathered all the information for the learners and helped prepare them for higher education,” says Confrey-Maloney. “Charging the equivalent of 30 cents per student, the business was soon making a profit.”

In addition, Confrey-Maloney worked with a group of students in the village who formed a study group called Learners Earning a Future (LEAF). The group pooled their money to pay for a unit of electricity, and worked at the local preschool each night. Under Confrey-Maloney’s guidance, the students elected leaders, created a strict tardy and absence policy, and began studying together. Word of LEAF traveled quickly, and two additional study groups were founded in nearby villages modeled on the newly-designed system. In the final days before his departure to the United States, Confrey-Maloney also worked with rhinos, cheetahs, and leopards at an animal rehabilitation center.

“What I have learned is that areas all over the world are inhabited by local residents with their own ideas and solutions to the most complex problems. In fact, they may have the only solutions, as they understand the problems in ways that those outside the villages simply never can – and all they need is a little catalyst,” says Confrey-Maloney.

Confrey-Maloney’s summer experience was funded, in part, by a Park Enrichment Grant. Park Enrichment Grants provide support for Park Scholars engaged in professional and personal enrichment experiences designed to foster the development of scholarship, service, leadership, and character, as well as connect Scholars with faculty.

A sophomore majoring in biological engineering, Confrey-Maloney plans to continue his work in the development sector. He is collaborating with fellow Park Scholar Brian Gaudio ‘13 to redesign the student organization Shoemanity, a group dedicated to serving the people of the rural Dominican Republic, and begin their own nonprofit organization.

~posted 2010.10.11