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Enactus Club: “A Byte of Peace” for South Africa

When senior Shaun Mandiwana landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, he had high spirits, but a lot of concerns. Mandiwana and The College of Idaho Enactus Business Club had planned for months to implement their “A Byte of Peace” project.

With help from Hewlett-Packard and the J.M. Smucker Company, the C of I Enactus club was able to raise $11,000 for installing an internet café at the Vhutshilo Mountain School to give students a better chance at educational success and life.

But that all hinged on one thing.

After a phone call to HP headquarters in South Africa, Mandiwana learned the 10 computers had not been shipped to their destination—a village in the Limpopo province, the same area Mandiwana was born. The region was a seven-hour drive away. Without the computers, Mandiwana’s whole trip would be wasted. The people at HP assured him the computers would get to the village the next day. Battling jetlag, Mandiwana took the long drive to Limpopo, hoping the computers would indeed arrive on time.

“Everything was a challenge because of the time crunch we had,” Mandiwana said, who was only in South Africa for five days.

Enactus is an international organization that connects student, academic and business leaders through entrepreneurial-based projects. These projects empower people to transform opportunities into real, sustainable progress for themselves, their communities, or in this case, another country.

On the surface, the C of I Enactus club was offering computers and internet access to a school that previously lacked such amenities. But the true depth of the project was much more important—a matter of life and death.

The Vhutshilo Mountain School provides care and education for HIV/AIDS orphans and impoverished students, and it also maintains an antiretroviral pediatric care program. Most families affected by HIV/AIDS are only visited by an outreach program once a month, Mandiwana said. During that time, the outreach program finds most people stop taking their medication, including children who may not understand the importance for taking it. Having the children come to school is one way to make sure they are taking their medication and receiving the care they need to survive. The Enactus club hoped computers could help keep them interested in school.

Upon arriving at the school, Mandiwana found the computers had successfully been shipped—one hour before he arrived. The computers would be set up the following day, after a few more materials were bought.

Mandiwana arrived at the school the following day, excited to introduce the students to a whole new world. But that excitement soon turned to somberness. One of the children, Ronewa, had passed away during the night. Her name means “gift we have been given.”

“The news left all of our hearts heavy and sad,” Mandiwana said. “Her passing was a constant reminder of the harsh realities of HIV/AIDS.”

But with little time to accomplish the project, Mandiwana and others pushed on to set up the computers. Soon, the children were playing on Paint or exploring with Microsoft Word, as their eyes light up like a candle with a burning interest to learn.

“The kids were super excited about the computers,” Mandiwana said. “For them, it was all new and exciting.”

With only 10 computers, not every child was able to use one on that day, a Friday. But they were excited to come back on Monday to continue learning, Mandiwana said.

After Mandiwana left South Africa, the excitement the computers led to a 20 percent increase in student attendance. The intended goal had been accomplished.

“We really appreciate our alumni and our professors for putting faith in us with that amount of money and working on an international scale,” said Ali Dang-Ngoc, Enactus president.

The project was a crash course into the world of international business. Professionalism, working with different organizations, maintaining good relationships—all were invaluable lessons learned, Dang-Ngoc said.

And with a successful project under its belt, the Enactus club presented at this year’s Enactus National Exposition in St. Louis

It was the first time the C of I Enactus club had gone to the national conference in ten years. After going on hiatus, the C of I chapter of the club was reinstituted in 2013. While most schools sent teams of about 30 people, the C of I was represented by Mandiwana and Dang-Ngoc.

“All of the judges were like, ‘Where is your team?’ ” Dang-Ngoc said.

In true C of I fashion, Mandiwana and Dang-Ngoc, while having fewer numbers than other schools, impressed judges with what they were able to accomplish. After their first presentation, one of the judges came up to the duo and gave them his contact information. He said his company has a Boise office and wanted to stay in touch.

In addition to networking, the exposition provided a chance to see a “new level” of presentation. Mandiwana said he was impressed by how in-sync and coordinated the teams were, with each member knowing when to speak and not looking at their slides.

“I learned how to cope under pressure,” he said. “It was definitely a new level of pressure, seeing the teams dressed up and coordinated. Some of them even had their own mics.”

Though both Mandiwana and Dang-Ngoc graduate this spring, the eight-member C of I Enactus club has no plans of slowing down. With a successful first project, fundraising and future projects should be easier to accomplish. In the near future, the club hopes to return to South Africa to continue the “A Byte of Peace” project, while also implementing local projects and activities on campus.

“I think the success of Enactus on the C of I campus is going to continue,” Dang-Ngoc said.

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. The C of I has a legacy of academic excellence, a winning athletics tradition and a history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.