While many students spent the spring and summer terms working to gain experience and some money, third-year mechanical engineering student Shola Fashanu was in Ghana working for a small start-up supported by Engineers Without Borders Canada.
Fashanu, an active member of the School of Engineering’s student body, joined the Okanagan chapter of the Engineers Without Borders last year and quickly became very involved.
“When people think about Engineers Without Borders, they immediately think of a group installing water wells in developing countries but it is so much more than that” explains Fashanu.
Fashanu was selected as a Junior Fellow with the organization where she short-listed ventures that appealed to her and went through a thorough vetting process before being matched with one.
There were many options to choose from, but Fashanu was drawn to one particular venture in Ghana.
The Bloom Impact, a micro-finance app, establishes links between small businesses and financial service providers.
According to Fashanu, the draw of Bloom Impact was the app’s “tangible impact on small businesses and their communities with its ability to put financial resources in the hands of its users.”
After one week of intensive training at the National Headquarters of Engineers Without Borders Canada in Toronto, Fashanu was on a plane to Accra, the capital city of Ghana.
“I’ve never traveled so far from home before, I was amazed that I was able to pursue such a unique opportunity through my student club participation” says Fashanu.
For the next three and a half months, Fashanu looked after data collection and management while the operations team in a new workflow as Bloom’s Operations Intern.
“It was really amazing to work with the app users, and see it change the way they do business.”
Above all, Fashanu not only found an appreciation of how Canadian systems can improve things in Ghana, but also how Ghanaian systems can improve things in Canada.
Although based in the large city of Accra, Fashanu found time to travel to Sega (about 60-kilometres from the capital) where she volunteered at a local school.
“The overall experience has really given me a sense of how big the world is, but at the same time, how small it is” explains Fashanu. “Ultimately, as an engineer, we are taught how to be critical thinker and how to improve systems and that is exactly what this experience reinforced for me.”
“To a further extent, it demonstrated to me that as an engineer you can not only be successful and make money but you can also do something important and help others.”