The October issue of Glamour Magazine has named 2009 Truman Scholar Tish Scolnik as one of their Top 10 College Women, recognizing her work on mobility issues for the disabled. Words to live by, according to Tish, quoted in Glamour Magazine, are “‘Haba na haba hujaza kibaba,’ a Swahili proverb that can translate to ‘little by little fills the pot.’”
Tish reflects on her experiences, from her arrival at MIT to her hopes for the future
“When I arrived at MIT this fall as a wide-eyed new member of the class of 2010 I never imagined that I would go this far. I knew that MIT emphasized a practical, hands-on education, but I never envisioned myself immersed in the culture of Tanzania, conversing in Swahili, and working to improve wheelchair technology. I hope that when I return to Tanzania I’ll be able to purchase something from a wheelchair user who has set up a business from his chair, and that I can share a seat on the bus with a disabled user who has safely brought his wheelchair on board.”
Disabled entrepreneurs start small businesses with Tish’s help
Over the summer of 2008 and over IAP 2009, Public Service Fellow Tish Scolnik helped four disabled entrepreneurs to start small businesses. She set-up a loan system so that the entrepreneurs could buy the small-business wheelchairs and necessary business supplies, helped the entrepreneurs get started with their businesses, made arrangements with banks to hold their savings accounts, and supported them through their first hurdles. These pilot entrepreneurs began by making and selling batik and beaded jewelry, fixing small electrical goods, and repairing shoes. The entrepreneurs soon branched out and added new elements to their businesses – keeping pigs and chickens or selling used clothes, for instance. Having someone believe in them as business people truly motivated them to reach for more. The shoe-repair man has used some of his business profits to help two other disabled entrepreneurs to set up shoe-shining businesses close to his stall.
Building a new wheelchair workshop in Tanzania
Meanwhile, Tish was also working with one of her community partners in Tanzania to build a new wheelchair workshop and skills training center. Through GlobalGiving.com, Tish won the Global Engagement Summit (GES) Project Challenge and was awarded a $3,500 grant on top of the over $8,000 she raised herself. Over IAP ’09, Tish and her Tanzanian community partner identified a plot of land for the new wheelchair center. They hope to formalize the purchase in the coming months.
To read more about Tish and her small business wheelchair, go to http://web.mit.edu/mitpsc/showcase/stories/scolnik_businesswheelchair.html