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Team Philippines: Exploration and Orientation

We arrived to the Philippines in two groups, the majority of the group arriving late Saturday night and the remainer of the team arrived late Sunday night. Sunday was spent exploring Manila. We ventured out on foot and explored Rizal Park, a large public park in the center of Manila, and Intramuros, the oldest district and the historic center of Manila.

Krissy and Mauri outside of Fort Santiago, a historic site in Manila

Krissy and Mauri outside of Fort Santiago, a historic site in Manila.

We took a break from exploring the city on foot by sitting down for some cold juices and desserts. Sam ended up trying Halo-Halo, a popular Filipino dessert, which made everyone jealous until he found unknown surprises in the bottom of the glass.

Sam eating Halo-Halo, a popular Filipino dessert

Sam eating Halo-Halo, a popular Filipino dessert, and discovering yams(?), gelatin, and cooked beans. 


On Monday, with the full Philippines team in Manila, we headed to the CRS offices for orientation.  The CRS staff in Manila provided us with a thorough introduction of the  Philippines and CRS’ work in the Philippines, with an emphasis on CRS’ agriculture program. As our project seeks to address the barriers to financing for rural farmers in the Philippines, we asked many questions of the CRS staff, trying to get a better sense of the scope of their current work.

Day 1 lunch with CRS Manila staff

Day 1 lunch with CRS Manila staff.

After having a lunch for the CRS Manila staff, we headed to a meeting with PinoyME and the Peace and Equity Foundation, two organizations that provide funding for social enterprises. Both organizations have sought to address the needs of poor, rural farmers and have investigated the barriers to financial lending for small farmers.  Representatives from both organizations provided a great deal of insight and information on the status of agricultural microfinance in the country and the barriers that must be circumvented to secure and enhance the the livelihoods of poor farmers.

Team Philippines meets with PinoyME president and CEO, Danilo Songco, and Peace and Equity Foundation chair of the board, Bishop Ledesma.

Team Philippines meets with PinoyME president and CEO, Danilo Songco, and Peace and Equity Foundation chair of the board, Reverand Ledesma, Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.


Team Rwanda: Day 1


Only a few hours after arriving we were off to an early morning church service followed by lunch at Hotel Des Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda) with our hosts Catholic Relief Services. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Kigali Genocide Memorial, a heavy and emotional experience. We later went to dinner at Heaven Restaurant in Kigali with Josh Ruxin who oversees the Millennium Development Village in Rwanda.

During our time here Team Rwanda will seek to: identify business opportunities in the agriculture value chain for rural youth in Rwanda.

The questions we will have to deal with include what opportunities would interest the youth? How do we scale the opportunities identified?Over the next several days we are going to test and retest the assumptions we have made in the last few weeks. This will be through rigorous research, and daily evening reviews amongst our selves. In between we will visit more of the genocide memorials,  Akegera National Park, and do the Gorilla Trekking in Ruhengeri.

We have done the thinking and analysis, now we execute and adjust. Come along on this exciting journey.

Sierra Leone: Integrating informal and formal healthcare workers to improve maternal and infant mortality rates

Kusheh! (That’s “hello” in Krio!)

Team Sierra Leone is heading out over the Atlantic to Sierra Leone on Sunday! Sierra Leone is located in northwest Africa between Guinea and Liberia. The whole team of six (plus our faculty sponsor, Susan StVille), will begin in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, and then head east to Kenema and Kailahun for five days to interview health staff and other stakeholders in maternal and child health. Then half of the group is going to stay east for a couple of days to do some site visits in Bo while the rest of the group will head back to Freetown to talk with the Sierra Leone government and NGOs. At that time, Professor Emily Block will be joining up with us too!

Project Background

This is Business on the Front Lines’ first project in Sierra Leone and also the first time the course is working with healthcare. Our team will be working with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to find a way to merge the traditionally-trained birth attendants (TBAs) with the formal healthcare system in order to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates. One possible solution would be to have TBAs become community health workers (CHWs), which are aligned with the government healthcare system, but the problems here are two-fold: CHWs are unpaid volunteers; and becoming a CHW means that there will be many more responsibilities in addition to assisting with births.

Our job, in this case, involves creating an incentive strategy for TBAs to become CHWs – what needs to be done in order for TBAs to move to this formal healthcare role so they can provide more comprehensive services and assist pregnant women, new mothers, and their young children with proper medical care?

Fortunately, there has been significant support for maternal and child healthcare from the Sierra Leone government in the past few years. The Free Healthcare Initiative (FHC-I) was enacted in April 2010 which provides all pregnant and lactating women and children under 5 years old free healthcare. The sustainability of this program is in question, though, as it is largely funded by donors. The encroaching 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals is another concern, as Sierra Leone tries to address MDGs #4 and #5 in reducing maternal and infant mortality rates. (Sierra Leone currently has the third highest rates in the world.) The new Minister of Health and Sanitation, Miatta Kargbo, provides a ray of hope in her initiatives to solve some of the core problems with the high mortality rates such as curable complications, teenage pregnancy, and women’s rights.

CRS has been in Sierra Leone since 1963 and has supported Sierra Leone throughout its brutal civil war (1991-2002) and on the post-conflict stage. In regards to maternal and child health and our project in particular, CRS has a program called Quality Circles that acts as a means for open dialogue and counseling between TBAs and the formal healthcare system. We are going to be fortunate enough to be able to speak with CRS employees and TBAs that are members of Quality Circles during our time in-country.

Beyond Work

Outside of work, we are going to have some free time in Kenema and are hoping to explore the beautiful beaches around Freetown. We are also going to visit to the Tacugama chimpanzee sanctuary!

We are all honored to be a part of this class and project. We hope to put our best foot forward to serve alongside CRS in making Sierra Leone a better place for women and children to live healthier, happier lives.

Team Philippines Project: What impact can financing have on farmers?

Near the city of Davao, CRS helps farmers grow more cacao and get better prices for their crops. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS — Source: CRS

Team Philippines is flying to Manila on Friday to partner with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in addressing the needs of farmers in the Philippines. The team will be splitting up into two groups for the majority of the week. One team will be staying in Luzon, the largest island and the economic and political center of the Philippines; the second team will head to the southernmost island of Mindanao, the most economically impoverished island that is also very fertile and rich in resources.

Team Philippines is primarily attempting to determine where the key financing gaps are in agriculture.  The team will also look at the possibility of bringing a mid-level lending opportunity to the Philippines to help clusters and cooperatives expand operations, add value to their products, and increase yields and storage capacities.  The team will attempt to assess the current level of financing available to farmers and cooperatives and whether mid-level capital investments would help move farmers beyond strictly subsistence-level farming.

The team is eager to learn from the long-term involvement of CRS in the Philippines.  CRS has worked in the Philippines since 1945 and has been involved in agroenterprise since 2005.  In the agroenterprise sector, CRS has focused on organizing farmers into single-crop clusters.  The organizing of small groups of farmers into clusters allows the farmers to collectively produce sufficient quantities of product in order to reach markets and buyers directly, without having to sell their products to mobile traders who pay only a fraction of market value.

Team Philippines will be meeting with many of the clusters and cooperatives that CRS has organized.  The team also has meetings and interviews planned with other key stakeholders: microfinance organizations, government agencies, insurance providers, corporate markets/buyers, traders, CRS’ NGO partners, among others.

The team is excited to hear from all key stakeholders in agriculture to get a sense of how more farmers in the Philippines can move beyond subsistence-level farming and ensure secure livelihoods well into the future.


Team Nicaragua – Agro Enterprises & Microfinance

Hi All!

Team Nicaragua is heading south in a few days and we’re very excited to land in-country and start working with our CRS partners face-to-face! We were told one thing at the start of Business on the Frontlines – change is the only constant – and that sure has been true! Our project in Nicaragua has evolved over the past few months. Initially it could be described as assessing the feasibility of a microfinance project, The Zaccheus Fund, and whether or not it would work on the ground with Nicaraguan cooperatives.

Once we started working directly with CRS, the scope of the project changed slightly from solely a feasibility analysis of the fund, to a more holistic view of efficiency and productivity of certain cooperatives in Nicaragua. CRS had a few goals for us:

  1. Evaluate the business planning, organizational structures, operational practices, and overall business models and provide concrete recommendations for achievement of business growth and sustainability.
  2. Evaluate the specific credit needs of the producer cooperatives per the revised business model suggested by our team.
  3. Evaluate the specific credit needs of the smallholder member-producers of the cooperatives and consider the farm-level business models and capacity for re-payment. From that information, create an out-of-the-box credit product model that would allow such producers to invest in their farms, improve productivity, quality, and profit while meeting their loan obligations.

From CRS’s goals, we came up with the following hypothesis: “Farmers can be more operationally effective by joining a well-functioning cooperative, which will increase crop yields, decrease costs, and provide access to affordable credit terms, in turn moving the farmers further down the value chain.”

With that hypothesis, Team Nicaragua has spent the last month researching cooperative best practices, reading up on case studies about cooperatives and the effect on individual farmers in different communities, and fully understanding the value chains for both individual farmers, as well as the different tiers of cooperatives.Now that we’ve armed ourselves with an initial understanding of farming and cooperatives, we’re ready to get in-country in Nicaragua and start meeting with individual farmers and cooperative managers to understand where they see issues within the current business models.

We’ll be splitting up into two smaller teams on the ground so we can visit two different cooperatives: COOPESIUNA and CECOOPSEMEIN. Both cooperatives are located in northern Nicaragua near the Honduras border. After we meet directly with the cooperative farmers and managers, we will have a better understanding of the problems they face and we can get to work on meeting the goals that CRS had set out for us. Again, as change is sometimes the only constant, we might find that the problems the farmers and managers face on the ground differ from what we initially thought. However, change is okay with us and we’re ready for any changes in project scope or hypothesis we might run into. And most importantly, we’re all very excited to get to Nicaragua and continue to work on the microfinance feasibility and cooperative analysis with our CRS partners in person!!

Meet Team Rwanda!

Team Rwanda

Muraho! (Kinyarwanda for ‘Hello there’) Team Rwanda has been tried, tested and found ready! Follow how we are faring over the next few weeks through this blog, our facebook, and on twitter @BizOTFrontlines



Erin Hoekstra
Hometown: Holland, MI
ND Program: MBAMarketing and Business Strategy
Background: Non-Profit Marketing, Public Policy,and Politics
Fun fact: Was assistant tennis coach at Wheaton College
Why BOTFL:  Perfect Combination: Faith/Business/Non-Profit/Service



Shubham Amatya
Hometown: Kathmandu
ND Program: Masters in International PeaceStudies
Background: Four years experience in conflict analysis in Nepal and the Philippines
Future plans: Post conflict development
Fun fact: Tried playing drums- her mom paid her a dollar a day (to NOT play!!!)
Why BOTFL? To explore avenues to make human development possible through economic security



Kurt Wilson
Hometown: Springfield, IL
ND Program: MBA Business Leadership Concentration
Background: ACNielsen BASES and US Army
Future plans: US Army
Fun fact: Can speak Chinese
Why BOFTL? to learn more skills and tools that more effectively serve post conflict societies



Anne Wilson
Hometown: Seattle
ND Program: MBA Finance
Background: corporate finance with Boeing
Future plans: consulting
Fun fact: Has solved a Rubik’s cube
Why BOFTL? opportunity to use my MBA in service


Ben Murunga
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
ND Program: MBA Finance
Background: Marketing
Future plans: Consulting/Finance
Fun fact: Has climbed Mt Kenya
Why BOFTL? An excellent opportunity to demonstrate that businesses exist to serve the community.



Josel Nivera Mostajo
Hometown: Alangalang, Leyte, the Philippines
ND Program: LLM International Human Rights Law
Background: government lawyer for the Office of the President of the Philippines
Future plans: Assume my post as a lawyer at the Office of the President of the Philippines
Fun fact: Master cook
Why BOTFL? Because its a unique subject which broadens my horizon


Faculty Advisor: Bill Nichols
Professor: Accountancy
Mendoza College of Business

Meet Team Sierra Leone

Team Sierra Leone 2013 (L to R: Lwando Xaso, Phil Lynch, Susan StVille, Michelle Purvis, Nancy Abwola, Kelly Strait, Mike Cordingley)

Team Sierra Leone 2013
(L to R: Lwando Xaso, Phil Lynch, Susan StVille, Michelle Purvis, Nancy Abwola, Kelly Strait, Mike Cordingley)

Name: Lwando Xaso
Home Town: Johannesburg, South Africa
ND Program: LLM, Law
After graduation, I’m heading to: Not a clue – hopefully on vacation!
Previous experience: Doing civic education with highschool students- if you want to see a shift- work with young people. Its important for them to know what defines the society they live in whether its socially, legally or politically- you have to get them interested.
Fun fact: I moonlight as a party planner.
In 5 words or less, “Why BOTFL?”: Because every class blows my mind.

Name: Phil Lynch
Home Town: Bullhead City, AZ, USA
ND Program: MBA
After graduation, I’m heading to: FTI Consulting, Chicago, IL, USA
Previous experience: Continuous Improvement Specialist, International Operations
Hobby: Outdoor and Adventurer Enthusiast
In 5 words or less, “Why BOTFL?”: To serve the world through business.
Twitter: @Phil_M_Lynch

Name: Michelle Purvis
Home Town: Guilford, CT, USA
ND Program: MBA, Consulting
After graduation, I’m heading to: ScottMadden, Inc. (Management Consulting)
Previous experience: 5 months studying abroad in Ghana (2007)
Fun fact: I play the drums!
In 5 words or less, “Why BOTFL?”: Learning, travelling, and serving. Together.
Twitter: @michellepurvis

Name: Nancy Abwola
Home Town: Gulu, Uganda
ND Program: MA Peace Studies
After graduation, I’m heading to: Kampala, Uganda
Previous experience: Worked with women who have been subjected to violence to access health services including reproductive health.
Fun fact: I love dancing!
In 5 words or less, “Why BOTFL?”: The challenge & opportunity that comes with it!

Name: Kelly Strait
Home Town: San Antonio, Texas, USA
ND Program: MBA, Marketing Concentration
After graduation, I’m heading to: Cape Town, South Africa for a summer internship, then a job at USAA in San Antonio, Texas
Previous experience: Studied abroad in South America for 2 months; involved numerous in service and entrepreneurship projects at ND and abroad
Fun fact: I got to hang out with a lot of rock stars while I was working for a drumstick manufacturer! And I also play the drums!
In 5 words or less, “Why BOTFL?”: More than just another class.
Twitter: @KellyStrait

Name: Mike Cordingley
Home Town: Herndon, VA / Washington D.C. Metro Area, USA
ND Program: MBA
After graduation, I’m heading to: Chicago, IL, USA
Previous experience: Coordinated and facilitated job readiness training for the homeless in the DC area through a corporate partnership between Accenture and a non-profit organization called Back On My Feet.
Hobbies: Exercising and playing guitar
In 5 words or less, “Why BOTFL?”: Learning and growing through service.
Twitter: @MikeCord

Meet Team Philippines

Team Philippines is highlighted here in the second of four team profiles.  Team Philippines is flying into Manila and then heading to Mindanao, one of the three large island groups in the Philippines.  Here are the team members who comprise Team Philippines:


Dana Spencer (3rd from R)
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
ND Program: MBA
Post-grad plans: 3M in Minneapolis
Previous experience: I worked for three years as a fundraiser with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Fun fact: I’ve finished two Ironman triathlons
Why BOTFL?: I love a good challenge
Twitter: @dmariespencer

Sam Nichols (3rd from L)
Hometown: Auburn, CA
ND Program: MA in International Peace Studies
Previous experience: Human rights monitor in Hebron, West Bank
Fun fact: I secretly want to earn a living as a bicycle mechanic and vegetable gardener
Why BOTFL?: Peace requires economic security
Twitter: @samuelnichols

Krissy Kalinauskas (2nd from R)
Hometown: Atlanta, GA, USA
ND Program: MBA
Post-grad plans: Ernst & Young Advisory (Consulting) in Atlanta
Previous experience: Coordinated the supply of medical goods for the victims of landslides and natural disasters to be sold in a market created by social entrepreneurs in Costa Rica
Fun fact: Huge college sports fan. Went to two bowl games in 2013 – saw a Gamecock win over Michigan, and a less rewarding national title game
Why BOTFL?: Collaborate to serve, learn, evolve

Mauri Miller (Right)
Hometown: Elkhart, Indiana
ND Program: Law
Post-grad plans: Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
Previous experience: I have traveled and lived internationally on numerous occasions
Fun fact: I am a huge sports enthusiast
Why BOTFL?: New perspective

Michael Kinsella (2nd from L)
Hometown: Various (MN)
ND Program: MBA
Post-grad plans: Consulting in Chicago
Previous experience: Lived in Afghanistan for a year
Fun fact: Carrier landings at night are scary

Robbie Espiritu (Left)
Hometown: DeSoto, TX
ND Program: MBA
Previous experience: The first time I traveled to the Philippines, my brother and I got completely outworked and outplayed on the basketball court by kids wearing sandals
Fun fact: I’m the president of the Notre Dame bowling team
Why BOTFL?: To learn and serve others
Twitter: @robbieespiritu

Faculty Advisor: Roger Alford (Not pictured)
Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School
About: Joined the NDLS faculty in January 2012. Prof. Alford teaches and writes in a wide range of subject-matter areas, including international trade, international arbitration, and comparative law.

Meet Team Nicaragua!

Team Nicaragua is very excited to head out to Managua in just under two weeks! We’d like to take this chance to introduce ourselves, and please, feel free to follow us on Twitter while we are in country (individual Twitter handles below).


jflatley botfl blog Name: Jonathan Flatley
Hometown: Elmhurst, Illinois
ND Program: MBA
Previous Experience: one of my former clients was a large U.S.  based cooperative
Hobby: Traveling is a passion of mine; this is my first trip to Central America
Why BOTFL? Ability to make a difference
Personal Twitter handle: @flats429


acaldwell botfl blogName: Andrea Caldwell
Hometown: Media, PA
ND Program: MBA
Post-Graduation Plans: DuPont (Wilmington, DE)
Previous Experience: I once participated in a 48-hour dance marathon (no sitting, no sleeping for 48 hours)
Why BOTFL? Think/do/be/ask more.


dlamb botfl blogName: David Lamb
Hometown: Pacific Palisades, California
ND Program: Law School
Post-Graduation Plans: New York, NY – Chadbourne & Parke.
Fun fact: I am an avid surfer and have surfed all over the world.
Why BOTFL? An amazing opportunity
Personal Twitter handle: @ddlambo


bkelly botfl blogName: Brendan Kelly
Hometown: Annapolis, MD
ND Program: MBA
Previous Experience: Extensive experience in Frontline problem solving in Iraq
Fun fact / Hobby: Head Coach of the Notre Dame Sailing Team
Why BOTFL? Passion for tackling intransigent problems
Personal Twitter handle: @bkellshc


msikenyi botfl blogName: Maurice Sikenyi
Hometown: Bungoma, Western Kenya
ND Program: Master’s in International Peace Studies
Previous Experience: Capacity Building and Livelihood programs for internally displaced persons
Why BOTFL? Multifaceted approach addressing social concerns
Personal Twitter handle: @mauricesikenyi


ngorski botfl blogName: Nicole Gorski
Hometown: Chicago, IL
ND Program: MBA
Post-Graduation Plans: Intel Finance; Phoenix, AZ
Fun fact / Hobby: Lived in Alicante, Spain for 6 months
Why BOTFL? Proof good business is possible
Personal Twitter handle: @nicoleg17


vbartkus botfl blogFaculty Advisor: Viva Bartkus
Associate Professor
Mendoza College of Business
Website: http://business.nd.edu/vivabartkus/

It’s Business on the Frontlines 2013!!!

Thanks for checking out our Business on the Frontlines (BOTFL) 2013 Blog website. This is our first post, and although we don’t head out to our individual countries for a few more weeks, definitely check back in often for updates on what we’re doing and where we’re at. There’s a few ways to stay in touch with us throughout the semester (we’re really embracing the whole social media trends), and we’d encourage you to check them out and follow/friend us:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOnTheFrontlines
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BizOTFrontlines or follow us @BizOTFrontlines
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/bizotfrontlines/

We’re now in our fourth week of BOTFL classes and we have started deep dives into our individual country projects and our classroom hours have centered around in-depth discussions on business, development, and service. We have 4 teams comprised of Notre Dame MBA, Peace Study, and Law students who partner with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for the projects. This year our teams will be traveling to Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Nicaragua. We’re very excited to be part of Business on the Frontlines and can’t wait to share more with you! Check back next week to learn more about the team members and the country projects.