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One Hen hatches in Boston with program at Kroc Center

Martin Desmarais
One Hen hatches in Boston with program at Kroc Center
Jordan Wallace shows off the key chains and bracelets being sold at the Kroc Center in Dorchester as part of the One Hen Academy.

Kroc Center summer camp students sell products they made to a Salvation Army employee at the Dorchester center last week.

A dozen eight- and nine-year olds spent most of the summer learning what it means to get into business at Dorchester’s Salvation Army Kroc Center.

Last week, the budding entrepreneurs took their self-made key chains and bracelets to market as an end to their One Hen Academy summer experience. They sold over $100 worth of products and plan to donate some of the money.

“Through the program the kids learn how to start their own small business … and it also teaches them to look at community needs,” said Helen Rosenfeld, executive director of One Hen Inc. “This empowers kids to become social entrepreneurs to make a difference for themselves and the world.”

Based in Boston, One Hen is a program that teaches children basic financial literacy, money management and business skills. Started in 2009, One Hen has produced an education curriculum for teaching elementary and middle school students about microfinance, social entrepreneurship and personal finance. Over 32,000 students have participated in its programs and more than 1,200 educators have been trained in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Ghana.

According to Rosenfeld, One Hen got its start based on a children’s book One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference, by Katie Smith Milway. One Hen is the story of a West African boy, Kojo, who receives a small loan to buy a hen and from that one hen develops a successful business as an entrepreneur. He moves from poverty to being a provider and employer of others.

The book is called “a story of how the world undergoes change, one person, one family and one community at a time.” It is based on the real experience of Kwabena Darko of Ghana.

The One Hen program held this summer at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center of Boston — like all One Hen programs — starts with the kids reading the book. The story shows them how starting a small business with something as simple as selling eggs can turn into something much bigger.

“I think the kids really connect with the story of Kojo. … They got it,” said Rosenfeld. “They also really enjoyed making the product and they really enjoyed selling it. The idea of standing up and convincing somebody to buy their product, they really enjoyed it. They really thrived.”

The kids from Dorchester took part in the One Hen program every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours as part of the Kroc Center’s summer camp for youth. The kids received micro-loans to start their simple businesses making key chains and bracelets. On Aug. 6, they got a chance to practice their sales skills and sell their products at a community market at the Kroc Center.

Rosenfeld said that the kids were able to quickly relate to the concept of being an entrepreneur and it helped them recognize businessmen and businesswomen from their community. “These are people they know and they can relate to and it shows them that they can do it too,” she said.

Having the kids also plan to donate some of the profits exposes them to the concept of social entrepreneurship, according to Rosenfeld.

“Kids have a connection to money already,” saiud Rosenfeld. “They are bombarded with advertising. … This was a really neat way to get them to think about community causes. They totally embraced the idea of how it was a business and how they could make money and actually do good with it.”

(L-R) Adrianna Hunt, Keith White, Leslie Benoit, Desaray Pryor and Cecillia Teixeira at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Dorchester. The summer camp students took part in One Hen Academy, which included starting their own small businesses to make and sell bracelets and key chains.

As part of the program, the kids got a chance to choose the different part of a business they wanted to focus on as business managers, marketers, makers of the products and sellers.

Rosenfeld said that it was great to see the program end with a market at the Kroc Center. “What was so fun was to see these little kids running after anyone who entered the center and persuading them to buy a bracelet and doing it with confidence,” she added.

Ida Cooper, a group leader at Kroc Center summer camp, said the feedback from the kids and some parents about One Hen was excellent. “The kids were excited about it because it is something new to them,” she said. “Some of the things that they thought they knew about buying stuff they got to know better.

“When the parents found out, they were excited about it and they thought it was a beautiful idea,” she added.

Marisol Ayala, director of summer camps and education manager at the Kroc Center, said that the strength of One Hen was how it connected the kids to other countries through the story of Kojo. It also connected them to donating money to an organization that helps out all over the globe.

Ayala said that the aim in bringing in the One Hen program to the Kroc Center summer camp was to provide some new and different programming. She said they would very much like to bring it back again. In fact, she said they would love to make the One Hen program a year-long after-school program.

“What stood out with One Hen was the fact that we were teaching about entrepreneurs and teaching them how to start their own business and teaching them the responsibility they need to start their own business,” she said. “We are happy that it turned out just how we wanted it to turn out, which is showing the kids that when you grow up this is what you have to do.”

While One Hen is based in Boston and has worked with teachers in Everett for a couple of years, Rosenfeld said this past year was the organization’s first real expansion into Boston with a program at The Dever-McCormack Middle School in Dorchester during the school year and the summer program at the Kroc Center. The summer program at the Kroc Center also gave One Hen the chance to work with younger students. Typically the program works with middle school students.

She labels the program a great success in showing it can work with younger students. “We realized there was an opportunity,” she said. “We wanted to make sure it would work before doing it in a broader way.

“It is applicable across the grades,” she added. “The earlier we are able to infuse the ideas about saving and the basic economic ideas … the more impact it is going to have.”