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While an undergrad student I volunteered in the Equalizer Foundation. This project aspires to build a better society through education and soccer, providing underprivileged children from the periphery a social-athletic-educational framework.

I was fortunate to combine soccer, one of my greatest passions, with the ability to influence the next generation of the community. I developed a deep connection to the children, the staff and other volunteers.

For the children, this was more than just a soccer practice. Being part of a team was a real opportunity for them to practice leadership. I remember one of them, who continuously encouraging his team mates to show up for practice and tournaments. Even when injured, he insisted on coming to tournaments and acting as “assistant manager”. He soon became team captain and was awarded a special trophy for his behavior. He taught me the important roles passion and dedication play in leadership.

I was fortunate to become a significant figure for the project’s participants and their families, pushing them to embrace new values while improving their grades. This experience taught me the importance of a positive role model in shaping children’s futures. I learned to appreciate how lucky I was growing up with everything I wanted and I constantly remind myself not to take this for granted.

I would like to expand The Equalizer Foundation’s activities globally. I plan to raise money for this cause through the Berkeley-Haas annual Challenge for Charity (C4C) campaigns. I believe my experience at Berkeley-Haas could help me reach more kids who could use soccer as a bridge to better life.

At the age of 5, I asked my grandfather to teach me to play chess after watching him play with his brother. Following this introduction to this ancient strategy game, I signed up for chess class.

Mastering chess has changed my perception and helped me gain a greater understanding of the world in numerous ways. Dealing with unexpected moves and changing plans in the game taught me resilience in the face of setbacks in life. I realized I have to put myself in new situations, move on and be flexible to recalculate and create new plans. As an officer in the navy, I brought an outside tester to give me an objective review of my soldiers’ skills and knowledge. When he said there was room for improvement, I checked my ego and changed my way of teaching. One year later, my platoon won first place in a tournament assessing their skills.

Moreover, I learned that in order to be able to navigate and improve a given situation, you have to anticipate others’ thoughts and incorporate them in your decision-making.

As I improved in chess, I started exploring new strategies, methods and ideas from chess traditions around the world. This multicultural approach inspired me to explore new languages and cultures in life, and I have traveled to more than 20 countries in Europe, North America, Central America and South America.

Fundamentally, chess is responsible for shaping the ways I think and how I understand the world around me.

During my professional career, I have had several meaningful impacts, but the one I am mostly proud of, happened in my extracurricular.

I volunteered in an association that develops leadership in teens from low-socio-economic backgrounds. Most participants I met dropped out of high school and some, unfortunately, turned to crime. I helped those who wanted to integrate into society by preparing them for their obligatory army service and exposing them to potential professions after the army.

While attending the annual two-day orienteering exercise that intensively teaches participants army navigation, I worked with a teenager whose father and older brother were in jail; his mom was the sole supporter of the six-member family. To help his mom, this 15-year-old stopped attending school to work. Aiming to boost his self-esteem, I practiced with him before giving him special responsibility to teach half of the group, which helped him gain confidence and leadership skills.  He led his team to victory in the final competition and told me that by my letting him lead for the first time in his life, he felt capable of taking control of other areas of his life, too. He subsequently found a way to simultaneously work and study, and later he not only got his high school diploma, but also joined the same unit I served in.

Just before our wedding, my fiancé, sat down with me to brainstorm potential job opportunities for him. He required something entrepreneurial. I had grown up in South Africa and had spent years investing in the country and across the African continent, so I suggested a few industries where I saw opportunities for disruption or growth. One of these was the share trading market, where the fees charged by the incumbent financial institutions were multiple times higher than other global providers, despite using similar technology platforms.

We reached out to a large global trading platform with the aim of selling it into the South African market and other African markets that possessed similar dynamics. Once the global provider was on board, I assisted my husband with raising the capital needed to start the business, obtaining the required licenses, and formulating a business plan.

It has been rewarding to see the impact that the business, has had on the market. With hundreds of new clients paying much lower fees, it has opened the investment world to many more investors and has started to get the attention of the incumbent players. In time all these players will have to drastically reduce their fees to continue competing, thereby lowering the investment barriers for many middle-class investors.

At Wharton I hope to find fellow students who share my passion for the African continent, by joining the Wharton Africa Student Association. There I hope to contribute from my understanding of the African business environments and cultures, as well as my experience advising a start-up in Africa, to raise awareness about the investment and business opportunities in Africa. I want to share my experiences helping businesses with inefficiencies and challenges, and share my views on where these same challenges create unique opportunities.

I also hope to use my background of investing in Africa, to advance the knowledge of other students who are interested in investing in other developing economies. Many of the lessons that I have learnt can be applied universally, such as the approach to investing in illiquid stocks.

Harvard U

Harvard University

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