Nicholas Chan ’20 harvests hope in Cape Town through the Jean Donovan Fellowship.
Being part of a rugby team first brought Nicholas Chan ’20 to Cape Town, South Africa. Kicking the ball around with the local children, he also saw teenagers his same age wandering the fringes of the field. Later he was told that those lookers-on were local gang members—and that the kids he played with would likely join them for a sense of family, belonging, and protection. But all that would come at a terrible cost.
While studying economics at Santa Clara, Chan proposed a social justice project that would take him back to South Africa to foster a more positive sense of community. He went to work with Harvest of Hope, an NGO-sponsored business venture that seeks to build collaboration among smallhold farmers. A Jean Donovan Fellowship through the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education took him there. Harvest of Hope collates the produce of 48 micro-farms, providing those farmers market access and getting their harvests from farm to table in a matter of days. Chan worked elbow to elbow with field workers to curate boxes of produce for local customers and restaurants. The various vegetables were more appealing (and marketable) together. Putting together people helped, too—with finances. One field worker took part in a “hoihoi,” what economists would call a rotating savings and credit association. “Ten people from a township meet every month,” Chan says. “Each member contributes 100 rand to a common pot. On a rotating basis, each member receives the lump sum—1,000 rand—for any purpose.” One employee was able to buy a car and build a house—by banding together with neighbors.