Patrick Starr's Experience


Peace Corps Experience

  • Benin
  • Community Economic Development
  • 2010 - 2012

Graduate School

  • Johnson at Cornell University
  • 2014 (expected)
  • Business Administration (MBA)

Undergraduate Degree

  • University of Notre Dame
  • 2008
  • BBA in Finance

I joined the Peace Corps in July of 2012 because I recognized in myself the need to give something back to the world around me and the desire for adventure. My journey with the Peace Corps took me to the small country of Benin in West Africa where I consulted with a newly formed national non-governmental organization, l'Association Beninoise du Moringa (ABM), or the Beninese Moringa Association. The ABM is comprised of farmers, producers, and professionals focused on increasing the awareness and consumption of the leaves of the moringa tree — a tree whose tiny leaves are packed with all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins for healthy human development.

Introduced from India in the 1960s, the moringa tree grows naturally and non-invasively in West Africa. The leaves are especially useful when dried and crushed into a powder that can then be easily stored and added to food as a sort of multivitamin. Recently, this tree — affectionately called "The Miracle Tree" — has become more prominent as nations focus on battling malnutrition and anemia.

One of my first projects was to help the ABM formalize their governance structure and become officially recognized by the state. I also helped the board of directors formalize a marketing plan. We targeted potential consumers by setting up informational booths at national festivals; instructed farmers on how best to plant, harvest, and package moringa; and conducted moringa-focused nutrition sessions at health centers, youth camps, and schools around the country. This multifaceted approach increased public awareness and demand for the product (and thus demand), and also helped new moringa farmers get started. In this way, the ABM spurred local economies by providing a new and easy revenue-generating activity, and increased the visibility of the product.

Another major focus of my Peace Corps experience was grant writing, and for that we were twice successful. These grants increased the infrastructure of the ABM in the hopes of making it financially self-sufficient.

Upon completing my Peace Corps service in July of 2012, I returned to school. I am now in my second year of a MBA program at Cornell, studying finance and its applications in the developing world. Prior to the Peace Corps, I was a management consultant for two years with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Washington, DC. I hope to combine these two previous jobs and make a career of international development consulting after graduation.

In order to make sure that future generations of Peace Corps volunteers have the same opportunities that I have had, I enthusiastically accepted the position to become the Peace Corps recruiter and coordinator at Cornell for the 2013-14 academic year.

Photos

The following provided by Patrick Starr.