Tuesday, September 17, 2013

MAcc student travels to Central America to teach financial literacy

When Adam Buhler learned about Project Belize, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t resist. Buhler graduated from the KU School of Business in May with an accounting degree and is now earning his master of accounting. This summer, he worked as an intern for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and when the company chose him to participate in its annual financial literacy education program, he was ecstatic.

Project Belize, started in 2008, seeks to incorporate basic financial skills into the public school systems of developing countries. Each year, employees from every level of PwC travel to Belize City to help, primarily, high school students learn budgeting and basic entrepreneurial skills. The group also works with teachers, principals and parents.

During the summer, the kids in Belize City can choose to go to various camps such as sports camps or art camps. Buhler worked at a local high school with teenage students who chose to attend the financial literacy camp.

Shortly after the camp started, Buhler, and the teachers with whom he was working, discovered that one of the students, a 17-year-old, didn’t know how to read or write. Feeling discouraged and ashamed, the student contemplated not coming back the next day.

“I sat down with him, read him the instructions and helped him spell words,” Buhler said. “As I helped him with that first project and got him engaged with things, he got really excited. He thanked me several times the very last day and he was sad that we were leaving.”

All of the volunteers wore T-shirts provided by PwC and on the last day, the students signed them. The students in Buhler’s class decided it would be cool to trace their hands onto his shirt.

“It was a really touching experience having them leave an imprint on our shirts and on us personally,” Buhler said. “It was very special. They just have an inviting and loving spirit.”

Buhler credits the business school faculty and staff for landing the internship at PwC. He said their encouragement to get as much out of the internship as possible is what gave him the motivation, drive and desire to participate in Project Belize.

“This was, far and away, the most outstanding experience of my internship,” Buhler said. “Without the KU School of Business and the relationships and connections I’ve made here, I would not have had that experience. I believe that whole-heartedly.”

Buhler was the only person from the state of Kansas to participate and said it was fun to represent KU. Kansas is recognized around the world as a basketball school, but the volunteers from Project Belize now know that KU also has a great business school.

To view more pictures of Buhler’s trip, go to his photo album.

To learn more, go to the PwC Project Belize website.