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Top Hansen Entrepreneur Projects Focus on Water, Financial Support, Malnutrition Solutions

It only took a few seconds for Pakistan's Hafiz Usama Tanveer to put into perspective exactly how impactful being a social entrepreneur can be.

2017 HSI Entrepreneurs

“The most basic need to live is to have access to clean water and we knew we had a substantially tangible product to offer,” Tanveer said.

Agua Vitae, which means “water is life,” has created a straw-shaped product called the PakStraw, a device designed to filter and provide clear, clean water to potentially millions of people in Pakistan, including those in refugee camps, and severely cut back on water-borne illnesses.

The presentation by Tanveer, Brazil's Lais Higashi, Bulgaria's Iliya Kurtev and Giorgi Bokuchava who is from the country of Georgia, was on July 21, the final full work day of the Hansen Summer Institute on Leadership and International Cooperation program at the University of San Diego's Mother Rosalie Hill Hall. 

As a result of their idea and their presentation before the Hansen Summer Institute's three-judge panel, the group received a top grant seed prize amount of $4,500. 

Ronald Bee, executive director of the Hansen Summer Institute and one of the judges, said the PakStraw "serves a human need," while it also has the support of major partners, is already USAID approved and Bee believes it can be a great venture for these students from different countries to work on, to grow together and come together for a common cause to help others. 

Two other social entrepreneurial projects, Kosogrow and Nutrete, were awarded $2,500 and $500, respectively, following their pitches. 

Kosogrow's team of Blerta Begisholli (Kosovo), Bolor Jamiyandagva (Mongolia) and Patrik Hurath (Hungary), pitched an idea to provide financial assistance to new and existing small and medium-size businesses in Kosovo. 

Nutrete, whose team consists of Diego Manrique (Guatemala), USC student Samantha Viterbi (United States), Asel Tolonova (Kyrgyzstan) and Amen Temesgen Lanjore (Ethiopia), shared their idea of producing a nutritious cookie that can ease malnutrition in Guatemala among its poorest populations. When people buy a cookie, another goes to those less fortunate. 

These grant-earning ventures were among seven social entrepreneurial projects presented after three weeks of various skill-set trainings, leadership programming and working with USD's Center for Peace and Commerce Director Amit Kakkad and Assistant Director Rachel Christensen during a three-day social entrepreneurial workshop for the 25 Hansen Fellows. One of the essential aspects of the CPC is hosting the annual Social Innovation Challenge.

Other entrepreneurials ideas presented were: Turbota Club, a gym business in the Ukraine devoted to aiding current military and veteran soldiers; Respect Education Autonomy (REA), a criminal justice reform program dedicated to help Argentine women who can get help to rehabilitate themselves and reenter the workforce; Sharaf, a program in Tajikistan that aids young women with little to no education to learn job skills, notably design clothes and empower them; and Sole Purpose, a South Africa-based idea to upcycle used shoes for resale.

The Hansen Summer Institute (HSI), supported by the Fred J. Hansen Foundation, ran from July 1-23 at USD, where it has been held each summer since 2013. Prior to that, HSI was on the San Diego State University campus dating back to 2008. To learn more about HSI, visit its website. The program is open to college and university students around the world.

— Ryan T. Blystone