From Canada, To Bolivia! – An Introduction

My name is Kimi Wong and I’m really looking forward to my service learning trip to Bolivia this Spring Break. My journey with social justice began in high school, and I’m excited to see how my two passions for business and social justice will interact on this trip.

I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Canada, which makes me an international student! I grew up living with my mom, younger sister, and grandma, but now I am living with my dad who works in Pittsburgh. I am ethnically Chinese and I can speak both Cantonese and Mandarin. I grew up learning French in school, as well, but unfortunately, I cannot call myself fluent. What I miss most about home is the familiarity and safeness of the people and places around me, but at the same time, that’s what pushed me out to Pittsburgh.

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I transferred to Pitt as a Spring Sophomore, into PittBusiness, declared as a Finance and BIS major. Before transferring, I was a pre-health Microbiology and Immunology student at the University of British Columbia (UBC). I really wanted to work in healthcare, but I soon realized that I enjoyed talking to people more than learning about the bacteria or virus that caused their disease. The patient relations I developed volunteering at the various healthcare institutions were the reason I got up in the mornings, not the immunology and virology behind their situation. I never regretted the move.
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Currently, my time out of class is mostly invested in two clubs, Delta Sigma Pi (DSP) and Asian Students’ Alliance (ASA). I served as Vice-President Inter-Chapter Relations for DSP and Publicity Chair for ASA. Both roles involved strong communication and networking skills with the community and neighbouring chapters. I also want to give a shoutout to the school organizations back home at UBC that I keep close to my heart, UBC Thunder and UBC Splash Kids. UBC Thunder was my dragon boat team and my family. I had been involved with dragon boat for three years and with Thunder for two. We trained together through the cold and rejoiced over our victories together. I was fortunate to serve as their President for a semester before I had to say goodbye to UBC and dragon boat. UBC Splash Kids is a student-run non-profit organization that offered flexible and affordable private swim lessons for special needs kids, completely run by volunteer swim instructors. These organizations were all very crucial in shaping my passions and values.

More professionally, I’ve interned at StemCell Technologies, headquartered in Vancouver, in their supply chain department. StemCell offered me an interesting look into the mix of my current and past field of study, science and business. I currently work as a Student Accountant in the Office of the Chancellor, during the school year. Although I am not an accounting major, I value the knowledge and experience. I think my experience in the Accounting department will be greatly useful in many areas in the future. I am most excited to be interning with Deloitte this summer, in their Advisory practice. I had attended Deloitte’s local leadership conference this past summer, and I am looking forward to working with and learning from the people I met last summer.

As I mentioned before, my journey with social justice began in high school. I was involved in a couple social justice clubs. Out of all of them, Youth in Action was my favorite because I saw action upon the words that people were preaching. Other clubs brought in speakers to speak on issues, or they collected money or donated goods, but Youth in Action actually went down to Vancouver’s downtown east side every month with packed lunches for the less fortunate. I remember the first time I went down. I was nervous to meet the people, but when I got there, my “eyes were opened,” as cliche as it sounds. If I phrase it more extremely, I was afraid to meet these people, but when I did, I realized they were no different from me and my friends. I went many more times after that, and every time was a good time with good conversations and happy faces. Christmas was always a special trip, where we packed goodie bags with socks, mittens, scarves, and little gifts for them. Inspired by my club involvement, I wanted to push action past just our community. I consulted and worked with staff members to organize a service trip to Ecuador. I worked very closely with the teacher sponsor of Youth in Action and the Spanish teacher. I created a proposal and presented the trip to the student body. I unfortunately wasn’t able to participate myself, but this is why I am even more excited for this service learning trip. This is my second chance!

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In Bolivia we will be working closely with CEOLI, and consulting on their current business operations. We plan to focus heavily on their card sales. The cards are hand made by the special needs children in their program and the money goes back to them directly. Our goal is to increase their sales in America, by raising awareness in Pittsburgh, especially within the university. CEOLI also operates a swimming pool and water purification system. We will be offering recommendations on pool scheduling and operations and conducting more research on their water purification system. However, I am most excited to meet the people we will be working with and building lasting friendships with them. I grew up learning French in school, but I ordered a Spanish textbook and workbook, because I want to better understand and communicate with the people I will meet. I have been swamped with work the past month back at school, but I am determined to get through it or atleast parts of it. By participating in this service learning trip, I hope take advantage of this second chance to go to South America. I want to dive into the culture, which is why I really want to spend time to learn the language. This service learning course has stressed the difference between volunteering and service learning, wherein service learning focuses on the growth of the volunteer. Therefore, I hope to become more culturally aware and accepting personally and gain a real-life business experience, for academic applications in my classes and professional transferrable skills.

Spring Break can’t come fast enough, and I can’t wait to share the experience with you!

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