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International business and relations
Internship and Service Learning Description
On the first day of the service learning experience, the students are given a full tour of the El Buen Amigo store and Latin American Cultural Association community space and art gallery. Santiago Masferrer has operated the non-profit cultural organization for over 35 years, which he founded after immigrating to the US and earning his Master’s degree in history from University at Buffalo. He explains how the merchandise in the store is acquired through fair trade practices from artisans in Central and South America. Stories of individual and collective craftspeople, artists, and designers are provided for many of the products in the storefront, such as pottery makers from Nicaragua and weaving collectives from Guatemala.
Students will be introduced to the other active volunteers, interns, and staff members, who will help familiarize the students with the office and retail area and equipment, website, and phone/email information. If there is time, students could also participate in the Character Tower, which is a unique character building tool designed to teach patience, creativity, and attention to detail.
Orientation and Training
The first thing we do is get to know the each student’s background, interests, and goals he or she hopes to achieve. We process any administrative paperwork, exchange contact information, and get details about students’ schedule and availability. Depending on each student’s chosen major or specialization, he or she is given an overview of the department or departments of the organization where they can best utilize and develop their skills during the service projects.
Internship and Service Learning Objectives
The professional and character development of the students and how they can meaningfully impact their community are the main goals of the service learning experience. The students will have the opportunity to use their skills in a variety of projects, but always with an emphasis on responsible non-profit management and community leadership. In both our business and community activities, we follow the philosophy, “More than profits, we offer dignity and hope.” The service work with be both challenging and fun, with direct results that help the local Buffalo community and craftspeople all over the world. The specific major, skills, and goals of the students will be considered in all assigned work, and long and short-term project goals are explained to staff individually and as a group.
Internship and Service Learning Coordination
We have regular weekly management meetings in which the interns are encouraged to attend and share their feedback with the LACA staff. The founder, Santiago, is most often in the store and works closely with volunteers sharing decades of advice and enlightening information on global justice issues. In addition to regular work activities, student volunteers are encouraged to work together to develop new project ideas and share with the staff. Spanish language teachers and salsa dancing instructors also utilize the LACA community center and classes are available.
The community center has a classroom area with twelve desktop computers that are accessible to all volunteers and staff. The El Buen Amigo store office area has three desktop computers where most of the creative and administrate work is stored. The storefront utilizes cash register and credit card processor and students can be trained in store operations. There is an accounting area where books are kept and financial records are processed. Maintenance and event set-up duties are performed in our art gallery and performance space when art openings, concerts, or dance classes are held.
There is one available space for staff in the parking lot adjoining our store and community center located at 114 Elmwood Avenue in the heart of the Allentown district. Students can also park on Elmwood Avenue, and toll expenses can be reimbursed to the student. We are located two blocks from the Allen Street / Medical Campus light rail station. There is also a bus stop in 20 feet from the store that is serviced by multiple bus lines.
Students working during the day and evening will have food provided for them on most days, including home-cooked Latin American dishes. Coffee, snacks, water cooler, microwave, and refrigerator are also available to all staff. If needed, bus/light rail passes and parking compensation can be provided. Student volunteers are also able to easily network with other young professional groups, university clubs, and volunteer organizations.
Community Involvement Opportunities
Our community outreach includes working with many local publications. Local pubications, The Public and Artvoice feature advertisements, event announcements, and special articles written and designed by El Buen Amigo staff. Students also can assist in social and economic justice presentations and lectures at local schools and stores such as Burning Books. We work with weekly periodicals such as Artvoice magazine, cross-promoting regular art openings and reviews, concerts, movie viewings, cultural presentations and educational activities. In addition, students will assist in social media marketing, blog postings, website content editing, and grant writing. We are also in the process of planning a mural project that will bring together community artists, activists, students, and teachers.
Service Awards and Incentives
Community service awards are available for students and volunteers who demonstrate exceptional service and commitment to social justice and outreach projects. Articles published in local newspapers and magazines are credited to writing contributors. Volunteers are asked to write a review after completing the Character Tower exercise, which are organized into the overall product description. Students will also be exposed to grant writing procedures for 501c3 non-profits and be included in fundraising event planning committees.
Daily interaction with staff, volunteers, and other students make the work environment dynamic and productive. Students will be working with other interns and student volunteers from other local colleges. Staff and creative contributors working with LACA & El Buen Amigo are also well established in Allentown and greater Buffalo community, and are always willing to share their knowledge with new people.
All staff is welcome to attend monthly Latin American Cultural Association meetings hosted by the Board of Directors. We have also created a committee planning a new mural focused on human and environmental rights. The planning committee now consists of LACA staff, university professors, community organizers, and representatives of local artist collectives. The 80ft by 20ft mural will be painted on the south wall of the El Buen Amigo building. It will chronicle human and environmental rights abuses and sustainable and just solutions for the future.
Student volunteers are welcome to attend meetings and planning sessions with other community groups, including the Elmwood Village Association, WNY Peace Center, and New York State Art Teachers Association. Students will also learn about business-to-business networking and vendor management.
Daily networking opportunities include concerts, poetry readings, art openings, lectures, Spanish and salsa classes, craft-making tutorials, cultural education programs for all ages, and field trip hosting. Aside from scheduled events, local artists and fellow non-profit and small business operators are always stopping by the store to plan new events or just to talk about current events.