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Brown University Furthers Curriculum by Partnering with NGO - Students Raise $10,000, and Take Classroom Projects All the Way to Central America

Students from Brown University's Men's Lacrosse Program Raised $10,000 for the non profit Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), the largest donation from a student group SHI has received to date; and students spent a semester developing an economic plan for SHI, and then went all the way to Central America to see how effective it would be.

Providence, RI, November 07, 2009 --( Dodging the first of the season’s falling leaves, members of Brown University’s Men’s Lacrosse team ran for 36 hours straight this past fall to feed families and save forests in the tropics of Central America.

The Providence, RI-based students were running around the heart of their campus to raise money and awareness for Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), a Maine based non profit that provides Central American farmers with the tools and training to overcome poverty while restoring the planet’s rainforests. It was part of their annual charity fundraiser, and the students raised $10,000 for SHI’s needy families in Panama. Says Sarah Kennedy, SHI’s Outreach Director, “It was the largest donation we’ve ever had from a student group.”

Since 1997, SHI has provided more than 1,800 families in 108 communities in Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua and Belize with the training and support to grow nutritious and marketable crops while restoring the environment. “SHI's goals and the fact that their work is making a significant difference and the fact that over 90% of the money donated to SHI goes to work on their projects all factored into making SHI the choice for our group,” says Lars Tiffany, Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach.

Each year the Men’s Lacrosse Program selects an organization to support, in order to demonstrate “their solidarity, their determination to finish a challenging task, and their desire to make an impact on the world and themselves,” says Tiffany. SHI was one of eight different causes the team considered as a potential candidate. “It is empowering to 20-year-olds to be making such philanthropic decisions,” says Tiffany. Jake Hardy, a senior at Brown and Lacrosse athlete, brought SHI to the team’s attention. He first learned about the organization while taking a Social Entrepreneurship class, and was so inspired by their work that he is currently working with the organization in Belize as an intern. There, he is able to pursue his interests in asset development, environmental protection and grassroots approaches to social enterprises. Says Hardy from Belize, “People are often skeptical of reconciling development, cultural sustainability and the protection of valuable natural environments, but SHI is able to provide empowering assistance to farmers without disrupting their traditional way of life in a way that protects and even improves the local ecosystem.” Since joining SHI in September, Hardy has been researching options for the environmental component of SHI's monitoring and evaluation framework.

Extending the learning experience outside of the classroom is valuable for all concerned, says Alan Harlam, Director of Social Entrepreneurship at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University. Harlam, who is also an advisor for SHI’s Strategic Planning Committee, supervised his students, including Hardy, in a semester long project last year to develop an economic program for SHI’s cacao farmers in Belize. The team focused on the value chain of chocolate production and researched other successful, proven strategies. In particular, the plan stressed capitalizing on the ethical trade market as one way to improve profitability. The students’ perspective was a valuable one for SHI, said Justin Trezza, SHI’s Program Director. “The research and report completed by Brown University students will serve the organization for some time. Students tend to hit on aspects and details which sometimes are overlooked by those in the actual field. The relationship was refreshing and positive in that it offered both the students and organization the opportunity to share ideas, experiences and more.” Many of the students extended the lesson by participating in a Smaller World Tour in Belize, one of SHI’s regular trips to Central America, where participants work side-by-side with local residents working on SHI programs.

This semester, Harlam is once again leading a project on rural banking for farmers – and his class is developing a strategy for SHI to make capital more available to their farmers. Kaleigh McKinney is part of that program, and is excited about the real life implications of the course work. Says the Brown student, who is from Westernville, NY, “When I delve into Micro Finance Institutions around the world it is not to write a paper to be graded and then be sat on a shelf; it is a real opportunity for me to use the resources I have in order to really enact social change with this organization.”

“We think it’s wonderful how Brown students are not only raising important financial contributions to support SHI's work, but also getting directly involved in our field programs in Central America through the Swearer Center,” says Florence Reed, Founder and President of SHI.

Once Hardy returns to the United States, he plans to continue his philanthropic work. He and Jason Pohanka, another lacrosse player, intend to institutionalize the school’s fundraising efforts through a Brown Athletics Service and Philanthropy organization. “It will include other teams and work to centralize and improve Brown’s already strong student-athlete community service and philanthropy efforts,” says Hardy.

Contact Information
Sustainable Harvest International
Media Outreach Director: Sarah Kennedy

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