Students Engaged in Global Aid making a difference

Tammy Tran

Students Engaged in Global Aid is one of Lawrence’s newest student organizations. Inspired by Assistant Professor of Government and Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs Jason Brozek’s Introduction to International Relations class, SEGA began at Lawrence during the 2008-2009 school year, when a group of students wanted to create a tool for microfinancing. Without a doubt, SEGA epitomizes the ability for students to apply what is learned inside the Lawrence bubble to real-world situations.

The mission of SEGA is to provide members of the Lawrence community with opportunities for hands-on involvement in sustainable international development through microlending. By bridging the gap between Lawrentians with an interest contributing to a good cause and individual entrepreneurs in developing countries, SEGA is making a positive impact that can be felt worldwide.

Said Mattie Young-Burns ‘12, “SEGA is a unique and important addition to the Lawrence community because it focuses on microlending, which is a sector of international development which is not addressed by other campus groups. We also work to provide a platform to all students who have ideas for microfinance initiatives to give students first have experience with selecting and finding entrepreneurs.” Young-Burns is the current co-president of SEGA alongside Henry Strehlow ‘12.

The grassroots approach that SEGA takes is made possible through a partnership with KIVA.org, an international webpage that connects entrepreneurs in need of funding with individuals and groups who are willing to provide the loans. Working with KIVA has allowed SEGA to provide loans that entrepreneurs can use to carry out their goals without the burden of high interest rates.

In addition to providing loans for entrepreneurs, SEGA strives to promote awareness in the Lawrence community through inviting speakers to give talks on campus. Said treasurer Patrick Pylvainen ’13, “Last year, we had a speaker from an organization called Opportunity International, which does financing and microlending as well.”

In April, SEGA will be partnering with Amnesty International to host another speaking event. A Lawrence alum, Douglas Call will be speaking about his experiences as the Senior Regional Director at South Africa for Population Services International, one of the largest NGOs in the world. SEGA is also working towards organizing a benefit concert on campus this Spring.

“Microfinancing is something that lets the people decide what they want to do,” states Pylvainen. “A lot of global aid is looked upon negatively because it is just thrown out there a lot of the times and [is therefore] abused. If we can do it on a smaller level and preserve the integrity, it works a lot better. The power of choice is very powerful.”

Students with an interest in getting involved with Students Engaged in Global Aid are encouraged to email patrick.k.pylvainen@lawrence.edu or martha.c.young-burns@lawrence.edu for more information. The group meets Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. and are open to receiving proposals from members of the Lawrence community regarding ideas, grants or causes they believe SEGA can get involved with.

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