During a local church service Brandon Study attended, the preacher asked, “What are you using your life for?”
Study realized he wanted to take philanthropic action by co-founding Into the Nations, a nonprofit organization geared toward helping and empowering artisans in developing countries, with his mother Sandy Study and sister Kali Coble.
“I really want to use my life as leverage to help other people since I have been blessed with an education and an opportunity to make a change,” said Study, a junior entrepreneurship major.
The first campaign of ITN is called “May You Find Rest,” where the goal is to help Amparo del Carmen Valle Velis, a hammock weaver in El Salvador, whom Study met three years ago in an artisan market.
Since the moment he met Amparo, Study knew he wanted to help her. Amparo’s family was known as the “hammock family” in her town, but her hammock business was not enough to support her family.
This past August, Study and the team from ITN traveled to El Salvador to aid Amparo. The support included the reconstruction of her home with a new roof and a newly installed water filter, as well as a pair of glasses for herself.
The labor from those five days in El Salvador was grueling, but Study said it was a significant experience for himself and the two friends who helped him work on Amparo’s roof.
“As you could tell, I’m not a professional roofer—I’m a college business student,” Study said. “But even though it was a difficult process, it was rewarding to tighten that last screw to the roof. It was probably one of the most impactful moments of my life because she kept thanking us for fixing her home so it could be strong and safe. There’s no greater feeling than knowing you were part of something like this.”
Along with the international work, Study is a full-time student who finds the time to balance the work from ITN and his classes.
Study credits the Innovation Entrepreneurship Institute from the Fox School of Business for providing valuable experiences and sessions, like the Be Your Own Boss Bowl, which is an annual business plan competition. Study was a finalist with his friend, and it gave him a perspective of what he wants to do in the future.
Although ITN helped Amparo and her family last August, the group plans to support her business throughout its development. ITN’s mission is to be more than an organization that helps just once.
After a business plan is developed, ITN works with the artisans to achieve the best for their business. Currently, ITN is helping Amparo by setting up distribution channels for her hammock business at artisan markets.
“People ask, ‘Why don’t you just give money?’” Study said. “As an organization, we’ve come to realize that the best way to impact people is to empower them by creating their own change and checking on them periodically.”
“What we did for Amparo last August was just step one of the process and by walking alongside her, we will build her up and help create a suitable business for her,” he added.
Gail Vivar can be reached at email@example.com.