Pro Bono Consulting in Peru: One Lauder Student’s Story

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By Ying Wang (Lauder Chinese Program/Wharton ’14)

As students are busy making their summer plans right now, many are thinking about how to spend the few weeks before or after their summer internships. Many Lauder students will use that time to conduct field research for the Global Knowledge Lab (GKL) project and to travel with friends, but last summer I led a fulfilling 2-week pro-bono consulting project as part of the Wharton International Volunteer Program (WIVP).

We were tapped to help an education nonprofit (EnseñaPerú – Teach for Peru) decide if and when they should start an endowment and figure out how to build it. EnseñaPerú is part of the global Teach for All network, which covers 29 countries and includes organizations such as Teach for America and Teach for India. Despite being less than 4 years old, EnseñaPerú already has impacted EP has impacted over 5,500 students in vulnerable areas of Peru with the support of 111 teachers.

The project got off to an odd start when I was stranded for the first two days in Brazil due to a passport mishap during my GKL research trip. But all of the upfront work and research we did meant that we were set to start working remotely and didn’t miss a beat. Once our team reunited in Lima, we conducted numerous interviews with local philanthropists/supporters and staff members of EnseñaPerú. The amazing set of interviewees that EnseñaPerú set up for us completely surpassed our expectations. We spoke with 13 individuals including the co-founder of the organization, a CEO of a major local bank, and even a former Ambassador of Peru to the United States.

Wharton WIVP team at Machupicchu – one more thing checked off the bucket list!
Wharton WIVP team at Machupicchu – one more thing checked off the bucket list!

One recurring theme from all of our conversations was the nascent state of Peru’s culture of giving. Even compared to other Latin American countries, namely Columbia, Chile and Mexico, Peru does not have an established history of philanthropy or endowment building. Despite the rise of a new wealthy class, charitable giving is still very low because of a historical distrust of nonprofits and the lack individual tax benefits for charitable donations. EnseñaPerú has done an incredible job of building its reputation and fundraising in a challenging environment but will need think of how to broaden their donor base and income sources going forward—and that’s where we came in to help.

As expected, we learned a lot about how nonprofits run, the local education community, and endowment building. But we learned even more about Peruvian culture, both from the people we met through the project and our extracurricular activities. We enjoyed fresh ceviche in Lima, yummy pisco sours, and took a weekend trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu! All in all – an amazing WIVP trip.