2006.03.05: March 5, 2006: Headlines: COS - Senegal: The Rockingham News: Rebecca Perkins teaches a class in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Senegal: Peace Corps Senegal : The Peace Corps in Senegal: 2006.03.05: March 5, 2006: Headlines: COS - Senegal: The Rockingham News: Rebecca Perkins teaches marketing in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer : 2006.03.05: March 5, 2006: Headlines: COS - Senegal: The Rockingham News: Rebecca Perkins teaches a class in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer

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Rebecca Perkins teaches a class in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Rebecca Perkins teaches a class in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Iíve tricked them into forgetting this is class. The kids are snapping their fingers into the air, telling me how hard it is here, how the families are so big, how if you donít give money to someone theyíll say youíre evil - a significant element in such a community-based place. I ask them how the game - or a real business - would have played out if someone came asking for money throughout. Or if they had bought more soda. They knew these answers as well. But in a slightly frustrated defense, we came to, "But itís not the same as it is in your white countries."

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Rebecca Perkins teaches a class in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer

African mission: Big rewards, small steps

By Rebecca Perkins

Complete Business Index

Caption: Stratham resident Rebecca Perkins teaches a class in marketing, calculating profits and financial planning as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal.
Courtesy photo
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[Excerpt]

Recently, I taught a class to high school students, an audience that ranges from about 17 to 24. (Here, you have to pass an exam every school year to advance, and you only get two tries. High school is an elite class.) The lucky will continue to university, and the rest will just finish school and try to start their lives. We played the same game, and the second time they got it and finished with plenty of money. As we wound down that day, we had a few minutes left, so I sat down on the table at the front of the class while arranging the last bills.

"So, who won?"

Hoops and hollers, a couple begrudging acknowledgments through smiles.

"Well, what did you do? What was your strategy?"

"We bought as much stuff to sell as we could afford."

"OK, good. Does anyone know the name for this?"

Hesitation. A raised finger: "Investment."

"Good!" I write on the board, Investissement. "Can you explain what that is, more specifically?"

"When ... you spend a bunch of money on the business."

"Good, but thereís one piece missing. Anyone have ideas?" Thirteen thinking faces. "Where does this money youíre spending come from? Why do you have money to buy stuff for the business?"

Bing, one kid gets it.

"Itís your profit. You made a profit, and you spend it on your business."

"Great!" I say. I write this on the board, and give them a minute to write it down.

"What usually happens when someone has some extra money in Senegal? You go out and buy something to resell?"

They know I know the answer to this.

"We buy soda."

"Or clothes."

"Or someone asks us for some."

Iíve tricked them into forgetting this is class. The kids are snapping their fingers into the air, telling me how hard it is here, how the families are so big, how if you donít give money to someone theyíll say youíre evil - a significant element in such a community-based place. I ask them how the game - or a real business - would have played out if someone came asking for money throughout. Or if they had bought more soda. They knew these answers as well. But in a slightly frustrated defense, we came to, "But itís not the same as it is in your white countries."

"I know itís not. We all hoard our money till the end of time, thinking weíll need it in our grave, right?"

Laughs to get us back on solid ground, but Iíve taken away their ace.

"Why should it be the same here? You have your own culture. But should we just throw our hands in the air?"

Acknowledging smiles at the desks, waiting faces.

"Youíve seen successful businesses here. What do you think they do?"

"Well, we donít know." A coy smile. "Thatís why weíre here."

I smile as well. "OK, then. Shall we figure it out?"

Lots of nods.

"Iíll see you next week."



Editorís note: Stratham resident Rebecca Perkins, a 2000 graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and a 2004 graduate of Dartmouth College, is working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal. Perkins works and learns as a small enterprise development volunteer. The following is a story she sent Herald Sunday about her experience. We think it provides a fascinating glimpse into some of the more hidden corners of the global marketplace. She has been admitted to Cornell Law School, Class of 2010, and plans to study business law when she returns to the United States




When this story was posted in March 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:


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Story Source: The Rockingham News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Senegal

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