COVID-19 Challenge Empowers Students to Become Community Change Agents

GEM students develop community initiatives to tackle business and health care challenges

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many challenges and hardships for people around the world. For SNHU Global Education Movement (GEM) students, these challenges have also brought about opportunities to create change in their communities.

This winter, to help students lead in their communities, SNHU GEM facilitated a 16-week internship, known as the GEM COVID-19 Challenge, for a cohort of 18 students from Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. Through a series of workshops, assignments and mentorships, students developed and pitched a community initiative to tackle a healthcare or business challenge. Specifically, students were asked to:  

  • Identify a refugee-run business in your community that has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Propose a project to help the business bounce back from this challenge.
  • Identify a healthcare or civil society initiative that is tackling the pandemic in your community. Propose a project to help the program accelerate or improve their impact. 


Student projects develop community-based solutions to pandemic problems


Divided into six teams, students conducted community research and developed project proposals, implementation plans, and pitch decks to solve problems ranging from handwashing to family planning and classroom seating plans. Here are two community projects that tackle challenges many communities have faced during the pandemic:

Water Supply and Vegetable Growing to Avoid Malnutrition (Kakuma, Kenya): During the lockdown, many markets and shops were closed and Kakuma residents struggled to eat a balanced diet without access to healthy food products like vegetables. By making water and plant knowledge available to individual households, families can grow vegetables from their homes and avoid malnutrition due to COVID-related supply chain disruptions.

UpLearn Rescue Company (Cape Town, South Africa): Due to lockdowns and travel restrictions, many stores are missing customers and foot traffic. By creating an organization that trains business owners to open online shops and complete door-to-door deliveries, both sellers and customers benefit and communities are able to access critical goods without leaving their homes.

Through programs like the COVID-19 Challenge, GEM is able to support students beyond academics, providing internship and employment skills that also offer opportunities to create change in their communities.

Learn more about how other GEM students are using their SNHU educations to serve their communities during the pandemic through community initiatives like soap making and mask distribution.