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Students go to Panama

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Global Brigades Calgary, a new club at the University of Calgary, will embark on a project to teach practical business skills to individuals in Panama.

A group of 18 students will be going to Panama on May 1 for eight days, teaching micro-economic solutions and business skills in order to provide the tools and knowledge to successfully run small businesses and flourish in their communities.

According to U of C accounting instructor and project advisor Anita Lakra, the idea for this venture came from the group Global Brigades, which sends students throughout North America and Europe to resource-lacking nations to share knowledge.

Lakra presented the idea to some of her students in November 2011, and the Calgary branch stemmed from there. She said this project will be beneficial to the students, as well as the people the students will be helping.

"It's a win-win situation. The people in Panama will benefit because they will get business knowledge," said Lakra. "It gives the students real experience and they can apply what they've learned in the classroom to real-life situations."

The team will be assessing the problems found in the communities and teaching practical solutions. Each student of Global Brigades Calgary will invest $100.

"The idea is to invest time, money and teaching into struggling communities to help them become independent and sustainable," said Lakra.

Fifth-year commerce and sociology student and co-president of gbc Kevin Leitch said the idea spread quickly and students were eager to join.

"It's a whirlwind. It's really awesome to see the excitement we've generated," said Leitch.

Global Brigades has base camps in Panama, Honduras and Ghana. Leitch said Panama has the infrastructure to get the team to where they need to be. Global Brigades will be responsible for security and accommodation, giving the team the ability to concentrate on their work.

"That's really important because we can focus on applying our skills," said Leitch. "We hope that giving [Panamanians] this knowledge can bring more money to their communities and improve their quality of life."

Leitch says another hope is to inspire future groups of students to carry on these projects, and for it to become multi-disciplinary.

Third-year finance student and co-president of gbc Moleed Osman said this is an exciting new project for the U of C.

"Projects like these show that students have a voice and an ability to help. We can really make a difference and a change in this world," said Osman. "We want this to be an on going thing. It's nice to see the positive changes we are capable of making."

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