During my six weeks in Kenya, I learned more about a realistic approach to entrepreneurship than I did in four years of business school. During the first week, the co-founders Josh Bicknell and Doug Cochrane teach an intensive entrepreneurship course. Their passion for international development is contagious, and by the end of the first week I felt more than prepared for the following five weeks.
The entrepreneur selection process is improving with every program, and I was lucky enough to have really talented entrepreneurs who stayed focused and on-track throughout the length of the program. They all had great business ideas and they all received loans, and it was such a surreal thing to be a part of that. I’ve remained really close with two of them, and have been able to see firsthand how these loans have affected their lives. It has also encouraged them to pursue other business ventures and take smarter risks. Kenyans are some of the greatest people I know, and these relationships will continue for many years.
The social aspect of Balloon Kenya is definitely worth mentioning. I made some of my best friends on this program. The weekend trips are SO fun and a necessity with our hard work during the weeks. One weekend we were in Lake Naivasha, and ended up going on a late night safari! We saw hippos, giraffes, zebras, AND a lion named George! Getting to see those animals at night was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The volunteers chosen for this program are some of the brightest – I truly believe that bringing young 20 somethings together who have a common goal is a big driver to the success of the program.
I would hands down recommend this program to anyone who is interested in pursuing international development, or anyone who is a little unsure on what career path they're interested in taking.
What would you improve about this program?
I would increase the transparency on the administrative side of things. A lot of decisions are made that directly affects the volunteers, and the cause of these decisions isn't always communicated. This tends to rub strongly-opinionated 20 somethings the wrong way.