Lucy Zhao

Lucy Zhao

I spent my summer with The Kenya Project, a program I started my freshman year that brings an interdisciplinary group of University of Michigan undergraduates to Kithoka, Kenya to partner with locals to start small-scale businesses. We challenge ourselves to take the theory of creating impact we talk about in school classrooms and actually apply it. Our goal is to enable people to help themselves and create their own jobs. In Kenya, we worked with local entrepreneurs to bring them to the seed funding stage by creating business model canvases for three ideas: chicken farming, cultural tourism, and ready-made foods production. In the process of working, we complicated our ideas of what it means to “help” in developing countries and to “change the world.” In working with our Kenyan partners, we did not come with an attitude of “we know better.” Rather, we believe we have quite a lot in common, in strengths and also weaknesses. Starting a business is not forgiving. It does not take pity on the poor, but requires dedication and hard work from anyone that attempts it. In that sense, it levels the playing field. I am proud that we were able to work as equals. In the future, I want to work internationally in efforts to “level the playing field.”

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