Longhorns everywhere know that what starts at The University of Texas changes the world. Haley Lowry, MBA ’13, embodies that philosophy, taking the skills she learned in her Texas MBA at Houston classroom all the way to Rwanda.
According to Rwanda’s National Institute of Statistics, 44 percent of the population of 10 million is considered poor. In Rubavu, located in the nation’s western region, 48 percent of the population is poor. Sixty four percent of people in Rubavu must walk one hour to access healthcare, and in 2009, there was just one doctor per 43,000 residents. Nineteen percent of the population under 20 has lost at least one parent, many to AIDS and the 1994 genocide.
The Ndengera Clinic, located in Rubavu, was established as part of the Ndengera Foundation’s movement to protect these orphans. Typically, orphans are taken care of by neighbors and friends, stretching already thin resources. The foundation provides access to food, shelter, and education for orphans and their community, but the clinic struggled to provide this care due to a lack of patients with health insurance.
In spring 2012, Lowry and a team of her Directed Studies in Global Management classmates started Caring Connections Consulting, a nonprofit healthcare firm, to set up a marketing plan for the clinic with the help of Lowry’s sister, an ER nurse who moved to Rwanda to help establish the clinic.
“We were charged with creating a business that had a fit in Africa, and our team thought that the clinic would be a great opportunity,” Lowry said. “They were really struggling with awareness, and our team really dove in and came up with a lot of different options. People had to figure out how to get to the clinic, but first they had to know that the clinic was there.”
The team found there were two centers to the community: service and church. In Rwanda, the last Saturday of each month is dedicated to nationwide, mandatory community service activity, and most members of the community regularly attend church. The team created a marketing strategy for the clinic, and designed traditional media such as posters and brochures to hang around these hubs. Lowry distributed the materials when she visited the clinic in April 2012. This media, in addition to outside efforts and insurance changes, helped the clinic grow from 10 patients to 536.
Lowry says that she was surprised by the amount of creativity involved in the strategy planning, but even more surprised by the work the community has done to recover from the devastating genocide.
“Anyone can make a brochure; that is not that creative. The creativity was in understanding the social network, the place where everyone goes and how everyone is connected,” Lowry said. “Everyone in Rwanda is required to do community service as a way of remembering the genocide and working together for their country. People talked about how their whole family was killed by their neighbors, but they’re all friends now. I’ve never seen an act of forgiveness like that, and they’re living it out.”
She says that while she was the only member of her team to visit the clinic in person, she was inspired by the contributions possible even from 8,500 miles away.
“With an MBA, you might think that there is not much you can do from abroad, but there really is,” Lowry said. “As long as you have a passion for it, you can continue to help people. Little things like sponsoring a child go a long way.”
In addition to pursuing her MBA, Lowry is the global packaging solutions manager at Dow Chemical in Houston, where she works with companies such as Wal-Mart, HEB, and Costco to manage packaging.
“Creativity is something that drives me, but this is a different kind of creativity that drives me to create new business models and new ways of making revenue,” Lowry says. “The ability to be creative through new business models is my favorite thing.”
Lowry says she has already benefited from her experience in the Texas MBA at Houston program.
“I didn’t expect to have such an expansive network and a really close-knit class,” she says. “The MBA program gives you the skills you need to make decisions, but also gives you the network to bounce ideas off of.”
Lowry says the MBA program has opened her eyes to the way business works outside of the United States, which will continue to help her in her career.
“I personally love to travel, and I’ve always been intrigued by other cultures and different ways of doing things,” Lowry says. “I started with a travel bug. Now I’m interested in ways that business is done in different regions and countries.”
After graduation, Lowry will continue her work at Dow and hopes to travel more internationally. She says that while her direct work with the Ndengera Clinic ended, she will continue to sponsor two young children she met during her trip to help pay for their food, water, shelter, school uniforms, and other supplies. She encourages others to find ways to get involved as well.
“Where you live shouldn’t affect how you live,” Lowry says. “It isn’t just throwing money at something, it’s becoming involved. Don’t just give a man to fish, teach him how to fish. Becoming involved and using my MBA to really dive in and make a difference is really engaging.”
Originally posted on McCombs Today