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ThinkImpact offers unparalleled immersion experiences in social entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa and Latin America. We aren't your average abroad program—we create life-changing, mind-blowing international learning experiences. Our scholars are imaginative, capable leaders who seek out extraordinary opportunities and thrive when pushed beyond their comfort zone. If you're passionate about experiential travel and are looking for a hands-on crash course in entrepreneurship, a ThinkImpact program could be the best decision you've ever made.



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Yes, I recommend this program

I had a great experience! The staff was great and the community members were incredibly warm and welcoming. There was never a time when I felt uncomfortable or unsafe. Despite being a little apprehensive about the program at first, by the end I really enjoyed my time in Panama. I believe the experience really helped to shape my view of the world for the better.

What would you improve about this program?
I wish there was more time with the translators in the group. It would have been nice to get to know our host family better, but the language barrier proved to be a difficult obstacle in bonding with them.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I stayed in a rural community in Panama as part of a ThinkImpact Social Innovation program in January 2015. It was a wonderful experience to stay with the community members and experience life as they would. They were very friendly and we experienced a very different life from what we are used to. The concept of the program is wonderful - using local assets to bring about social change. I learnt a lot-importance of non verbal communication, interacting with community members to discover details about their lives and integrating ourselves in the community to help being sustainable change. It was a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend this program!

What would you improve about this program?
I would lay more emphasis on learning some useful words in the local language relating to food items, time of the day, family, etc. in advance before arriving in the country to start the program.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I participated in this program in January 2015. I think I made a very good choice. It was so exciting to be exposed to a fundamentally different culture than mine. I learned a lot from this program, such as team work, communication skills, etc. People there were very very friendly, cooperative, and supportive. To be honest I was a little bit surprised at their sincerity and friendliness. I made a lot of friends with the locals, mostly children. At the end of the program, I set up a poster board with the help of the locals and our program interpreter, Mr.Carlos. I was extremely happy with my work and I hope this could help the community better deliver information and become more unified.

If you want to have a different and meaningful vacation, especially the winter one, Panama is strongly recommended.

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Yes, I recommend this program

The Think Impact program has drastically altered my perspective on social entrepreneurship. The curriculum and program its self is honestly revolutionary in the process, there is a back bone to guide but lots of room for creativity. The process is innovative, creative, and passionate. Each of the associates within the program are more than qualified and truly inspire the process of the institute in each student. I personally enjoyed the ability to let my design team work out a project. This is the reason Think Impact is making sustainable change because it is based on what assets the community possess, rather than the "needs".

The excursions were well planned and thoughtfully selected. I enjoyed our hike as well as our drum lesson. Our team of scholars became so close during our excursions. As far as improvements, it would have been helpful for a packing list which was customized for the country specifically. I found myself buying a few small things which I could have brought from home once I arrived.

This program has both inspired me and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I would recommend it for everyone and anyone. I am proud to be an alumni of this program.

What would you improve about this program?
Preparation Material. It may have been helpful to have a bit more preparation material. I do appreciate the program did not offer specifics on our community before entering. By withholding specifics scholars could go into the community with an open mind and without expectations and presumptions on the community.
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Yes, I recommend this program

ThinkImpact gave me the resources to create positive change in my host community. Through immersion, collaboration, and coaching from my advisor, I lived a high-impact summer of social change.

The first portion of the program is dedicated to immersion. By living with a host family and participating in their daily activities, I felt welcomed and integrated into the local culture. I cooked, cultivated, fetched water, went to church, washed clothes, and fed the cow, among other activities.

I loved living with my host family, but be prepared to live in rustic conditions (no running water, latrines, etc.). You'll be surprised how easy this is to get used to! There was little variety in our food options, I generally liked what we were served. Our meals consisted of plantains, beans, rice, and some greens and fruit. We also drank milk tea every morning. It is very easy to be a vegetarian in the communities, if that's your thing!

I felt very safe in my community. My host family and team members were always looking out for my safety. However, we were advised not to go out at night.

ThinkImpact's in-country team exceeded my expectations. The country coordinator and advisor were attentive to our needs and went above and beyond to make our experience meaningful and impactful.

Starting a business in rural Rwanda is definitely a challenging experience. Trying to explain the idea of a business plan, budgeting, and other basics was quite difficult. Working with the interpreters was also difficult at times. Additionally, we had to consistently try to overcome the community's stereotypes of "Westerners in Africa" (especially with regard to money). ThinkImpact's staff was very helpful in addressing all of my concerns and working with me to come of with creative solutions to these issues.

I definitely recommend this program to anyone looking for a high-impact summer of social change, entrepreneurship, and asset-based community development.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Emily Hlavka

Emily is a recent graduate of Adrian College and was a Think Impact Scholar in Doringbaai, South Africa the summer of 2014, where she had a life changing experience!

Describe a goal you set and how you went about accomplishing it.

The Think Impact program has a unique approach to social innovation, which is based on asset evaluation and creative solutions to everyday problems with “everyday” assets. While in the village I set a goal to find a special niche and to help develop it.

In the village, there is a small factory with the unique asset of pebbles from diamond mines. Through a basic marketing strategy a team of local community members, another Scholar, and I formatted the marketing plan into a working document to strength their business.

Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.

Doringbaai is a small fishing village. My host father was a fisherman and would bring home his catch of the day for dinner. I have never had better fish in my life. My host mom would make different dishes, my favorite was the braai style. This is a cultural event in itself, like a BBQ.

During the braai the community and family members would gather round and help in the preparation of the meal. Fish, meat, and different “gumbo” type dishes would be slowly cooked over the open fire. This is an event which has deep traditions, and highlights the cultural trademark of laid back, and relaxed. Possibly the best part of braai was the bread, which was also cooked over the open flame. The bread had a crunchy exterior and absorbed the enticing fumes of the other dishes as it cooked.

Where was your best photo taken and what was it of?

The best photo I took while in South Africa was one while I was sitting on rocks overlooking the bay in our small fishing village. The water, was cool and deep and went on for as far as the eye could see. This picture radiates in my mind as not only a beautiful view, but a view a promise and hope for myself and those in the small village, there is so much life out there, so much depth.

When I look at this photo now I can remember the cold rocks I was sitting on, the mist of the waves as they crashed, the sounds of the children playing, and the wonderful people around me, but also the sense of awe it instills in me still today.

Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?

Yes, this was one of my favorite parts of participating with Think Impact. While in the village we had a host family and lived like we were part of their family. We would help prepare meals, attend church services, hear the local stories, and visit relatives in nearby towns. By complete immersion, my experience was elevated to another level of understanding the culture and community needs.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Aveleigh Gateman

Job Title
Program Coordinator
Aveleigh Gateman is the Program Coordinator for ThinkImpact in South Africa. She was born and raised in Canada, where she studied International Development at the University of Ottawa. After graduating she became a professional traveling expat, and has worked in 6 countries as a teacher, youth program manager and facilitator. She earned a master’s degree in Art and NGO management from EDHEC Business School in France, and now calls Cape Town home. Aveleigh loves to create opportunities for others to grow through their travel experiences.

Did you study, volunteer, or intern abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I studied abroad in The Netherlands during my undergrad and interned in China after I had graduated. I was inspired both times by the opportunity to delve into a new culture and by the feeling that I got when I had figured out how to take care of myself in a completely new place.

Through both of these experiences, I felt like my mind, skills and capabilities stretched far beyond what they could have in the same amount of time if I had stayed at home. Needless to say, my study/intern abroad experiences were some of the best I’ve ever had!

What is one thing you would tell any future scholar?

One thing I would tell future scholars is to listen to the old cliché to ‘step outside of your comfort zone.’ When you’re immersed in a new culture, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed at some points and to retreat into something you find comfortable (like spending your evening reading alone, calling home or talking to the people you already know).

It’s ok to do things that are comfortable when you need to, but taking every opportunity you can to step outside of comfortable will make your experience so much better overall. Most of my favorite memories abroad involve trying something that initially made my nervous. Like the time I ate a deep-fried scorpion at a street stall in China!

How are the scholars supported when they arrive at their project?

Scholars who join one of ThinkImpact’s Institutes are surrounded by constant and continual support before and after they arrive in their host country. Not only does the full-time country staff of ThinkImpact provide the resources they will need to be successful, but they are always available if a Scholar has a problem or a question.

Moreover, the host communities and families that welcome the Scholars act as a second support system. The people who host our scholars are very happy to answer endless questions and to do whatever they can to help the Scholars understand and feel comfortable in their new home. Beyond this, scholars get a lot of support from each other, because they are going through the experience together.

What responsible volunteering traits does ThinkImpact represent?

ThinkImpact definitely values responsible volunteering. We’ve evolved over time to be more and more responsible in how we approach the communities we work with, and in how our model works. Although scholars are volunteering their time, it’s also so much more than that.

Firstly, they come with a goal of learning about and connecting with their host community. Secondly, they aim to identify the assets and resources already present in the community. And Lastly, they are working together with members of the community to design business models that can create income and that can last. I think this approach to ‘volunteering’ is one of the most powerful models that exist.