The History of Square One
The idea for Square One was sparked by another student-run venture at CSB/SJU. In 2010, Extending the Link traveled to Uganda in order to document and share the plight of families led by teenage caretakers. These teens often sacrifice their own education and personal development in order to provide food, housing, and medical care for younger siblings after their parents die from HIV/AIDS. The Extending the Link documentary focused on the stories of a few young Ugandans, and showed some of the ways organizations work to combat this vicious cycle of poverty.
After viewing this documentary, a group of students decided to set up a social enterprise to help fund the organizations that support these Ugandan orphans. This first social venture focused on selling jewelry made by students at Hope Academy, a Ugandan school dedicated to providing education and support for children. In addition, two Johnnies were inspired to return to Uganda to create lasting business ventures in the developing country- laying the foundation for what Square One is today.
2012 - Our First Project at Hope Academy
Two St. John's students traveled to Uganda to build and fill two chicken coops for Hope Academy. Eggs laid by the hens are sold to community members, providing a source of nutrition to residents and the money to pay teachers' salaries. Furthermore, the opportunity to help raise the chickens provides hands-on experience and training the students can use to start their own businesses or careers. This project provided the inspiration and practical experience the Square One team needed to continue our work with Hope Academy and other developing countries.
2013 - Returning to Hope Academy
After developing relationships with Hope Academy through the chicken coop, Square One decided to help expand the social venture further. In 2013, a group of five students travelled once again to Uganda, purchasing the materials and livestock necessary to get a piggery up and running. The piggery provides additional income for the school, helping pay teachers' salaries and improve the community around the school.
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2014 - Expanding Our Reach to Kenya
In 2014, six students traveled to Mathare, the oldest collection of slums in Kenya (and one of the largest in East Africa) in order to help establish a sustainable long-term venture. Over 86 percent of Mathare's population lives without running water, sewage systems, electricity, roads, or adequate housing. Square One wanted to focus on how we could get those in Mathare to safely transition out of the slums.
2015- Chicken Coops in Haiti
Three members flew down in May of 2014 to complete step one of our three step process in order to generate the most beneficial project. There they discovered an orphanage that could use the helping hands of Square One. From the moment our three members returned, the entire thirty-member Square One team started planning a five-student return trip to Haiti to construct the small business.
In four months, Square One was able to raise over $26,000 and implement a small business at a Haitian orphanage in hopes to teach business skills to the children, raise money to support their home, and give back to their community.
Last winter, following months of research and preparation, five student members of Square One traveled to this orphanage to implement the chicken coop business plan. The chicken coop project, now complete, has provided jobs to the community, a source of income for the orphanage from the sale of the eggs, as well as a convenient and low cost source of protein for the orphan children. In addition to all of these benefits, the maintenance and care of the coops serves as vocational learning for the children. Joseph Nolan, a student traveler, shared his firsthand experience in Haiti, “Working on the Chicken Coop Venture was an incredible experience. I learned hands on what it takes to start a business, and I got to give back to those in need while doing so,” he said. “I am excited to see the coops flourish over time, and can’t wait to hear stories about how our coops are changing the community.”
2016- black fly larvae buckets for chickens
Last January (2016), four Square One members went back to create Black Fly Larvae buckets. These buckets are designed to dispose any scraps, dead plants, manure, etc. in these buckets. Then, the black flies lay their eggs on the scraps and have a place to fly out. It is an efficient process that will be self sustaining as the flies reproduce every 4-6 days. The buckets provide more food and nutrition for the chickens, which then will make it cheaper with larger quantities of food, maximizing more egg production from the chickens.
Square One also provides microloans to countries with the hopes of giving people an opportunity to try new things, using skills that will allow them to flourish. Currently, we have over ten microloans that have been given out. As we talked to Sam, he told us about the microloans that have been paid off, "One sells sandals, another cosmetics and toiletries, another lady from a different area sells sandals, another sells dishes and silverware, and the latest one sells sheets, towels and pillows. All of those were made possible by Square One."
As a part of this Discovery Phase, we traveled to our community to follow up with the ladies we gave microloans to. We interviewed many people, headed to different markets, and met new people along the way in our journey to understand more about the business culture in Haiti.
As we move forward with our plans, Square One will be returning back to Haiti this January (2017). Our goal for this is to expand out Discovery Phase. One of our main goals is doing something Square One has never done. We will be teaching entrepreneurial classes to those in the community that wish to be a part of it, including every person we have given a microloan to. Not only will this benefit the people and their businesses, but it will help us understand how businesses in Haiti are operated and what needs to happen to improve businesses to ensure that they are long lasting.
2017-Business Seminar and Micro-loans in Haiti
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere with approximately 380,000 orphan residents. As we moved forward with our plans, Square One returned to Haiti this January (2017). Our goal for this was to expand our Discovery Phase. One of our main goals was to do something Square One has never done. We taught entrepreneurial classes to those in the community that wished to be a part of it, including every person we have given a microloan to. Not only did this benefit the people and their businesses, but it helped us understand how businesses in Haiti operate and what needs to happen to improve businesses to ensure that they are long lasting.
We were pleased to hear that just over 60 people attended our seminars. We taught the people of Haiti a few simple business improvements, as well as important financial concepts. We gave out several microloans to the best sustainable business venture ideas. At the end of the seminars, we asked the group to raise their hands if they had learned something beneficial even if they did not receive a microloan for it. We were incredibly happy to see that every single person raised their hand.