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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Chris Lau

I am originally from Vancouver, but came to Western University to study political science. After learning about different political systems around the world, some which did very little for the poorest people of their country, I became interested in international development. Last summer, I travelled to Kenya with Free the Children and saw the impact of a non-profit organization with a solid development approach as well as strong business strategy, where money was fundraised and spent well, and the impact they had on the surrounding communities. This led me to pursue business at Ivey to combine with my interests in international development.

Additional Information

Personal Definition of Sustainability
Sustainability in a development context is achieved when an entity, whether a person, community, or business, has the tools to be self-sufficient long term. For instance, if a developing community is receiving foreign aid or donor funding, it will only become sustainable if they no longer need to rely on external sources, but rather have the long term ability to provide themselves with basic necessities such as consistent income and food. Businesses can also be sustainable if they act responsibility by considering the long term impact of their decisions on the surrounding environment.

Sustainability-in-Action
In the summer of 2011, I travelled with Free the Children for three weeks to volunteer and learn about the culture in Kenya. My group helped build the first library for the rural community of Pimbiniet. One of the most important factors for choosing to volunteer with FTC was the method of development they took. Their Adopt a Village technique provides a community with education, clean water access, medical care, and alternative income, as the tools for a village to become sustainable. Ultimately, the community will become self sufficient after working with FTC for 5 to 7 years.

This coming summer, I plan to travel back to Africa with Ivey as part of the new course offered "Service Learning in Africa". I believe education is the foundation for development and this gives me the opportunity to teach sustainable methods of business to aspiring business leaders in Africa. Furthermore, I have joined AIESEC, an organization which provides international internships to students. I hope to find a sustainable business internship through them for the rest of the summer.

When I was in 11th grade I attended a conference on "Energy in Our Future" that opened my eyes to the unfortunate reality of our environment today but also the sustainability efforts devoted to changing that reality. This experience showed me the difference that our generation can make and the opportunity that exists if you really pursue change.

Since then I have been involved in a number of committees: Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), University of Regina's Business Student's Society, Five Days for the Homeless, and the Raise a Reader Fundraising Team. Each team contributed to local and national fundraisers through on-campus awareness campaigns. I was also heavily involved in local volunteering efforts as a member of the JDCWest Debate Team, which was able to raise a record-breaking $76,500. My time spent as a member of these teams made me feel like I was making a valuable contribution to my community, a feeling I'd like to revive in the future.

Summer 2012 is up in the air right now as I am unsure where I'll be working/living but I plan to get involved in local initiatives and hope to meet like-minded students in the process.