Derek Gent

1996 / Bangladesh
International Development Management (IDM)

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What was your earliest volunteer experience?

My first experiences were through the Community Leagues in Edmonton, a network of neighbourhood-based organizations which organized a range of activities. I fondly remember the community hall where my mother taught at a co-operative preschool for many years and both my parents served as volunteer executives for the association.


Do you have any anecdotes or insights to share about the one-month training program leading up to your Fellowship travels?

I remember being in Ottawa with the most amazing cohort of smart, dedicated, and interesting Fellows, reflecting on how fortunate I was to be a part of this, and what adventures lay ahead for all of us.

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Did you eat something that was new to you? What was it?

Very large fish heads, starting with the eyeballs, and crunching the bones for protein, specially reserved for me as an honoured guest (and no utensils).

What did you do during your Fellowship?

After about a month travelling to field offices around the country, observing and reporting on a wide variety of their operations, I joined a very small team made up of Bangladeshi staff from BRAC, with a mandate to develop and pilot a new program. This program would allow experienced microcredit borrowers to scale up their operations to include at least one other employee outside the family, and to access larger-scale loans through a more sophisticated underwriting process.

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Do you have any advice for future Fellows?

The opportunity was a wonderfully humbling experience, where you are placed with an indigenous organization, and told to try and be useful. It is an incredible privilege, and an important investment by AKFC and their partners. Be useful, but also be observant, test all your biases, and when you are finished, pay it forward.

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What are you doing now?

I lead a community foundation connected to a credit union in Vancouver, BC, and also participate in AKFC’s Partnership Golf and Partnership Walk events every year with my family.

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