Washington — A group of small business owners and entrepreneurs in Malawi recently received some lessons on best practices in business and marketing, thanks to the Peace Corps.
Peace Corps volunteers Jacob Strawn of Springfield, Illinois, Adam Gaskins of Walton, Kentucky, Erin Reissman of Charlestown, Massachusetts, and Christian Porter of Brewster, Massachusetts, held a five-day seminar in late June for 20 small business owners and entrepreneurs in their Malawian community.
“The format of teaching adults versus students was a huge success,” said Gaskins, who has been living and working in Malawi since February 2011. “They blew us away with their enthusiasm and level of understanding. We have no doubt that some of them will be very successful.”
Participants listened to presentations by Peace Corps volunteers and received feedback on draft business plans. Although a majority of the lessons were held in English, several prominent guest speakers and business professionals shared motivating testimonials and advice in their native Chichewa. On the final day of the seminar, each participant presented his or her newly developed business plan.
“I feel confident about the leaders in the business communities after PCBS [the Peace Corps Business Seminar],” Porter said. “Strong economic ideas coupled with social responsibility in such fields as HIV/AIDS, nutrition and deforestation made for a promising look into the business future of Malawi.”
The program was funded by a small grant from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), with the hope that successful men and women will be able to provide better education for their children and promote a greater understanding of topics such as HIV/AIDS prevention and gender equality.
There are 126 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Malawi; more than 2,520 volunteers have served there since the program was established in 1963. Volunteers work in the areas of education, environment, agriculture and health. They are trained and work in the following languages: Chichewa, Chilambya, Chilomwe, Chindali, Chisena, Chitonga and Chitumbuka.