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Student fights AIDS crisis with Kellogg internship

It's not an official GIM trip, but Andrew Youn's African excursion embodies all the rigor and passion of Global Initiatives in Management

With the last of their finals behind them and several months of warm weather ahead, many Kellogg School students spend their summer internships honing their management skills by working with top firms who offer a chance to put classroom lessons into action.

Andrew Youn '06 spent his internship working with AIDS patients in South Africa.

Inspired by the Innovating Social Change Conference in fall 2004 and supported by the Kellogg School Center for Nonprofit Management, the second-year student turned his desire to help people into a viable business plan last summer.

An important lesson gleaned from his time in South Africa, he says, is to not underestimate the strength and resolve of the very poor. Though the prognosis was bleak for every one of those AIDS patients, their communities came together generously to help.

"Poor people can help themselves, but they need tools — very simple tools that are easy to provide. In this case, the tool was simple organization." Youn and his team organized local doctors, volunteers and training programs designed to teach the patients how to live independently while managing their disease.

"A lot of people don't understand how markets play a role in helping the poor," Youn says, though his definition of "markets" may not be quite what many aspiring entrepreneurs have in mind. "It's not like people need money so they can buy a car. They need money to buy food."

Youn points out that while many agencies have their hearts in the right place, they often devote too many resources to quick fixes and not enough to long-term solutions. And, he says, "most programs don't work with people that poor."

Youn's next project, the One Acre Fund, is currently underway. Based on a business plan he developed with other students in a New Ventures class at Kellogg, the pilot program is designed to teach Kenya's poorest residents — many are farmers  — to manage their land more effectively. Youn contends that a loan of just $150 can give a family of six the necessary tools to pull themselves permanently out of extreme poverty.

The tools are not elaborate, but they promise to be effective: The fund provides 30 participating families with professional seed and fertilizer, a series of instructional sessions and access to markets where the farmers can sell their crops.

"It's really the ultimate service, Youn says. "It is understanding their needs so you can help them live. It's very humbling."

— Aubrey Henretty

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©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University