I recently had the life changing experience of volunteering as the de facto "entrepreneur-in-residence" at a well respected international NGO in the country of Ethiopia. I had never formally volunteered before, had never been to Africa and I had never lived abroad. Like most Americans, I had only traveled to such places as Europe, Central America and elsewhere as a "pampered" tourist, seeing only what our "5 Star Budgets" provided. I even have lots of friends that have traveled to Africa, although on $20,000 "safaris" and what not.
The fact is that most Americans, myself at the top of the list, have no idea what it means to live among the members of a foreign culture. We Americans are wonderful at responding to a crisis in other parts of the world with our checkbooks and military might, if needed. What we "miss the boat" on is actually understanding and appreciating the many different cultures that comprise the world. I am blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to share in the beautiful culture and people of Ethiopia, first as a volunteer and then as the "ExPatrepreneur" I have fashioned myself to become (www.peterjburns3.com)
My mantra has always been "Doing well by doing good, " and the opportunity I have to do just that is so obvious in my work in Ethiopia. With a population of 92 million and only 15% or so living above poverty level, there is so much that this country needs and that we as Americans and entrepreneurs with a social conscience can provide. To that end, I am endeavoring to bring high quality portable MRI machines to their capital city of Addis Ababa with a population of 5 million...and only 4 poor quality MRIs in the entire country.
Other projects "in play" include a unique livestock feed made from insects, which is not only far healthier for the animals being raised but also less expensive than the current meat by-products. Another project involves the financing and roll out of kidney dialysis clinics that are in such short supply and so needed.
In short, American entrepreneurs should consider rolling up our sleeves and volunteering somewhere in the world that needs our unique skill sets to observe and then act upon opportunities that not only help the indigenous populations but also make a profit. Another mantra I live by is "You can't give unless you make."