During the first term of summer when many college students will be taking extra classes or bolstering their bank accounts, a group of volunteers from UT will be living and working for six weeks in the slums of Guatemala, hoping to make progress toward Nourish International's goal of ending extreme poverty.
Nourish International is an organization which sprung up around the idea that college students could use their resources and business savvy to change the situation of poverty stricken communities around the globe. Founded in 2003 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a much simpler organization, Nourish has grown to include 29 campuses across the United States, and its goal is very wide-reaching in scope.
"What Nourish is all about is engaging students to join the fight against global poverty," said Mary Carnes, a senior in global studies and the Nourish project coordinator at UT. "So, we run small businesses on campus, and then the money we raise from that goes to projects abroad to support local organizations in poor communities."
Those small business schemes make up the bulk of the work that Nourish does. Each summer, Nourish chapters across the nation send delegations of students to carry out service projects funded completely by the profits made during the school year.
"We do what we call Ventures on campus, which are various business related things," Carnes said. "Like, we sell jewelry we got in Uganda on campus to students. There's also a big venture coming up where we're going to partner with a group that puts on 'Fort Sanders Fest.' We do things like that on campus and in the community, and the money we raise just goes straight to our project."
The factor that separates Nourish International from other charity organizations is its intention to make any service it provides to those in need have a lasting impact.
"Nourish really tries to be sustainable, and so every project that we do we try to make sure we work alongside community members and that it can continue on," said Amber Donaldson, a senior in nutrition and chapter leader of Nourish. "Being sustainable and continuous are the main things."
This summer, UT's Nourish chapter is planning to send about five students to join a group from Indiana University in a partnership with an organization in Guatemala called UPAVIM.
"Our main focus right now is to work on education," Carnes said. "UPAVIM is a women's empowerment organization, but they do a lot of different things, and they have a learning center that they've set up for children in the community. We are hoping to partner up with them and help develop some of their curriculum in the schools."
In addition to improving the education system available to those in the Central American community, Nourish volunteers hope to institute potential for businesses to improve the situation for members of the community.
"Depending on the interest of the students going on the trip, we might also help with a project in entrepreneurship," Carnes said. "We would be helping to develop products, mainly crafts, for the women there to sell nationally and internationally."
Although it is being funded by profits from the year's business ventures, this summer's project will also be supported by donations given to Nourish during the month of February as part of a national fundraising effort.
"Right now, we're doing the 2013 Nourish International Giving Challenge," Carnes said. "We're trying to do basically a donation drive and get people to donate to the project."
All service projects are done in tandem with an organization already established in the project destination. According to the official website of Nourish, the purpose of this is to "bridge the gap between those with resources but no local expertise and those without resources but the knowledge of what should be done to address poverty in their community."
Despite a modern approach to the problem, Nourish International's goal of ending global poverty within the lifetime of the current generation of college students is admittedly no small task.
"I doubt it will happen in our lifetime, but I think we can make significant progress," said Alana Stein, a freshman studying chemistry.
Nourish members still have high hopes for their organization and the possibilities it introduces for college students.
"Nourish is a different kind of student organization," Donaldson said. "We have a lot of global studies and humanitarian focused organizations, and then we have a lot of business focused organizations, but Nourish is unique in the sense that it combines both of those. I would like to see our membership grow so that we can have a larger impact on campus and in the communities where we do our projects."