SAIT School of Business Students apply their skills in Dominica
Over the past three years, the SAIT School of Business has sent students to developing countries in partnership with the Chartered Professional Accountants Education Foundation (CPAEF) of Alberta.
The goal of these trips is for students to apply their skills to help the communities they visit, as well as to experience personal growth through travel.
This past July, the latest group of students went to the tiny island nation of Dominica, which is located in the Caribbean, and has a population of less that 80,000 people.
While they were on the trip, SAIT students worked with the National Development Foundation of Dominica (NDFD), a local NGO trying to diversify Dominica’s agriculture-based economy with training and loans for small businesses.
SAIT students helped the NDFD address its internal staff training difficulties to better serve their clients.
Getting Down to Business
The students also worked with the NDFD’s clients, most of whom were local small businesspeople, to help develop more formalized business plans.
They achieved this by administering surveys to employees of the NDFD and their business clients to better understand their needs.
The students analyzed the findings of the surveys, found key areas for improvement, and ran training sessions for both groups.
“We were basically running the activities during the sessions,” said Syed Ali, a second-year SAIT School of Business student, one of the four students selected for the trip.
Ali was initially worried about the training sessions, because many of the people they were training were either business owners or had a business education.
“It was all about going up there and starting to do it,” said Ali.
“If you’re not going to do it at all, you’re not going to get past your nervousness.”
A Valuable Opportunity
“It was a very interactive kind of opportunity for students,” said Fiaz Merani, who is faculty at the SAIT School of Business. He has been facilitating these trips for the last three years.
Merani came up with the idea for the trip while he was planning a vacation for his family. He wanted his daughters to experience other cultures and gain a broader perspective of the world through travel.
“I asked myself the question, why not my students?”
Merani submitted a grant proposal to the CPAEF. They liked the idea and offered to provide partial funding for the trips.
“All professions are experiencing a lot of changes,” said Merani.
“We need skills such as resiliency, the ability to adapt, and to be flexible.”
This program has also sent students to Belize and Zanzibar in previous years.
While in Dominica, students also got the chance to visit with local business owners, see their business operations, and see how they interacted with their staff.
Ali described the impression the Executive Director of the NDFD made on him. He carefully took the time to greet and interact with all of his employees, right down to the cleaning lady.
“That’s something I saw, that I really valued and I took back with me,” said Ali.