TSiBA Education: More than a Co-op

by Kate Pellegrino

This past spring semes­ter (2012) I had the great for­tune to be on co-op in Cape Town, South Africa work­ing for TSiBA Edu­ca­tion at the Igni­tion Cen­tre. TSiBA Edu­ca­tion is a tuition-free higher edu­ca­tion provider that focuses on build­ing future busi­ness lead­ers from South Africa’s pool of tal­ented but poor and dis­ad­van­taged young peo­ple. The Igni­tion Cen­tre is a busi­ness train­ing and men­tor­ing facil­ity for entre­pre­neurs from town­ships, and serves as an addi­tional tool for grad­u­ated TSiBA stu­dents. The mis­sion of the Igni­tion Cen­tre is “To be an inno­v­a­tive men­tor­ing com­mu­nity that devel­ops con­fi­dent entre­pre­neurs who earn sus­tain­able liveli­hoods, cre­ate jobs and drive eco­nomic and social pros­per­ity.” With only three full-time staff in the Cen­tre I was really able to get involved in a vari­ety of projects and tai­lor the co-op expe­ri­ence to my skills and interests.  

Dur­ing my four months with TSiBA I had the oppor­tu­nity to work on a vari­ety of short and long term projects. The main project I worked on was the devel­op­ment of train­ing mate­r­ial for a course in busi­ness plan­ning and finan­cial man­age­ment. I also did a lot of mar­ket­ing for the Cen­tre using social media and blog­ging, and designed a yearly train­ing cal­en­dar. Although these were my two main func­tions I had a vari­ety of smaller projects and respon­si­bil­i­ties dur­ing my time with TSiBA includ­ing but not lim­ited to assis­tant teach­ing, act­ing as a con­sul­tant for mem­bers, and reor­ga­niz­ing the shared drive files. This breadth of respon­si­bil­i­ties gave me a num­ber of con­crete skills and expe­ri­ences to high­light dur­ing inter­views for my sec­ond co-op. 

My favorite part of the expe­ri­ence, though, was get­ting to know the TSiBA stu­dents and immers­ing myself in the rich cul­ture of South Africa. While on co-op I had the amaz­ing oppor­tu­nity to go on a wilder­ness trip with the first year stu­dents. This trip was a 5 day lead­er­ship camp­ing excur­sion hosted by Educo Africa in the moun­tains of East­ern Cape which all TSiBA stu­dents are required to par­tic­i­pate in dur­ing their first year. With no show­ers, bath­rooms, phones, or beds for com­fort we were truly thrown into the wild. Our group of 13 stu­dents became very close over the course of the week. They shared sto­ries of the chal­lenges they had faced from the stresses of school to neglect­ful par­ents to over­com­ing drug addic­tions. It was truly one of the most mov­ing and mem­o­rable weeks of my life.

My time with TSiBA was incred­i­bly ben­e­fi­cial, not only on a pro­fes­sional level but a per­sonal one as well. The stu­dents and staff are ener­getic, pas­sion­ate peo­ple with so many touch­ing sto­ries and lessons to share. This co-op was a true learn­ing expe­ri­ence, and if I had the oppor­tu­nity, I would go back in a heartbeat. 

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