WKU Enactus Chapter receives grants to continue “Community Threads”

Whitney Allen

Enactus, an international entrepreneurial organization, comes full circle right here on WKU’s campus with projects that reach internationally by working to solve problems through business means.

The WKU chapter of Enactus recently received two grants that will help the program to continue its project Community Threads, which works with the Burmese refugee population in Bowling Green.

Enactus provides the Burmese women in the program with materials to make scarves, baby wraps and purses. Then Enactus sells the products to local stores in Bowling Green and gives the women the profits.

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., senior Denise Range is the project leader for Community Threads.

“I like that it empowers women,” Range said. “You get to see how your impact helps someone else, especially being a woman.”

Enactus just received the $1,500 Wal-Mart Women’s Economic Impact Grant and the Coca-Cola Uncapped Opportunity for Women Project Grant.

Enactus will submit a final report on the Community Threads project and will compete to win an additional grant.

The money from the grants allows Enactus to provide the materials for the women as well as the weekly English as a Second Language classes the group provides.

A large portion of the grant helped pay for the ESL lessons and tutor. Range said it wasn’t difficult to figure out how to sell the items or get inventory, but language was the biggest barrier the group faced with this project.

Medellin, Colombia, sophomore Jessica Hehao Barragan is a member of Enactus and said the language barrier is something she understands.

“I really like it because I’m an international student,” Barragan said. “I pretty much understand how difficult it is to communicate when you don’t know the language, and it really inspires me to get more involved with this project.”

Louisville junior Brendon Dodge is the Chief Financial Officer of Enactus.

“We saw that the Burmese women had a natural artistic talent,” Dodge said.

“We thought we could help them out by providing English lessons and then we could sell their products and give them the profits,” he said, adding that the next step is to teach the women to make bow ties.

London senior Wheeler Painter, president of Enactus, oversees each of the projects.

Painter said that in the beginning, the main focus of Community Threads was to simply help the women sell their products, but now the broader focus is to help the women assimilate in the American society.

“I can definitely see the change I’m making in other people,” he said. “Whether it’s the people I work with, other students or especially these women.”

In addition, Painter said their efforts were helping the women learn English and earn a living.

“Without our initiatives and impact they wouldn’t be in the same spot they would be in,” he said. “Whenever you think about that on a real level, that’s awesome.”