“In The River They Swim” Essay Competition
Where Sentimentality and Top-Down Solutions Give Way
to Business Strategy, Culture, and Local Wisdom
S.E.VEN Fund Awards $10,000 in “In the River They
Swim” Essay Competition
More than 1300 Entrants from 84 Countries Participated
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS —The Social Equity Venture Fund — S.E.VEN — is pleased to announce the winners of its 2009 In the River They Swim essay competition. The grand prize of $10,000 was awarded to two winning essays. Lucy Mbabazi, a second year Harvard Kennedy School student from Rwanda, and Michelle Ruehl, a United States Air Force officer, shared the prize.
The winning essays were selected through a competitive review process that included a jury of published authors and editors. Entries were received from more than 1300 individuals in 84 countries.
Authors were asked to share their experience living or working in the world's poorest countries (or poor regions of developed nations), and to tell about their personal journeys working in the area of enterprise solutions to poverty. Mbabazi's essay tells the story of her mother's struggle to found a Rwandan handicrafts firm that would go on to sell to Macy's and Starbucks, employing thousands of Rwandan woman, and exploring the power of entrepreneurship to foster forgiveness and reconciliation in the post-conflict nation. Ruehl's essay, entitled Redemption Song: My Time in the Valley, explores the author's personal journey during her time as an instructor in Nepal, and the challenges development workers face striving to foster change in difficult environments.
"These two essays are written by accomplished women who do not know each other, who have led different lives, but share one important trait: neither apologizes for the impact they intend to have on the world. Their essays are destined to be read as one. Michelle eloquently depicts the futility of well-intentioned aid workers WORKING WITH THOSE who do not place the responsibility for their futures on their own shoulders. Lucy writes with warm admiration for her mother, a Rwandan refugee during the genocide, who finds ways to rally thousands of weavers to make world class products, to build distribution channels to the world’s most demanding consumers, and in the process, becomes a role model not just for her daughter, but for the rest of us as well." said Michael Fairbanks, co-founder of the S.E.VEN Fund.
Biographies of the Winners:
Lucy Mbabazi is a second year Public Policy student at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is originally from Rwanda. Prior to studying at the Kennedy School, Lucy worked in information technology and accounting for a corporation. She is an avid volunteer for organizations such as Hope Worldwide, Habit for Humanity and Others May Eat. Upon graduation, she intends to return to Rwanda to work on behalf of those without a voice in Rwanda and Africa, with specific focus on assisting people who face poverty, civil unrest, war or natural disasters.
Michelle Ruehl is an Air Force officer, a C-130 Hercules pilot, and an English instructor. She graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a B.S. in English, where she played rugby and spear-headed the cadet Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. After graduation, she attended joint flight training with the Navy in Pensacola, earning her pilot wings, and then she went on to graduate school to study psychology, specializing in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. In addition to flying, she also spent time doing volunteer work at two Buddhist monasteries in Nepal, developing the curriculum and teaching several courses. Last year, Michelle attended a summer program at New York University called “Reading, Writing, and Service Learning,” where she learned how to set up tutoring programs for inner-city writing centers. She currently teaches at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado, where she also works with the Army’s “Wounded Warrior” program, using horses to rehabilitate soldiers who have come home from the combat zone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Michelle’s long term goal is to take the leadership skills she has learned in the military and use them as an international ambassador, while continuing to fly, teach, and apply therapeutic riding to support those returning from war.