World Citizen

From her time as an international business major studying in Mexico and Europe while at Bradley, Erica Bustinza ’04 has followed a path of “not really living anywhere — but living everywhere.”

A stint in the Peace Corps and an internship in Guatemala while earning her master’s degree in international development at Tulane University instilled in her an even greater awareness of the world and its problems. In April, Bustinza started work as a digital financial services program officer with FHI 360, a nonprofit international human development organization. Previously, she was a micro-finance specialist for four years with Global Communities, another nonprofit, where she worked with a largely rural population in the northern part of the African nation of Ghana.

“I worked with access to finance and financial education,” Bustinza said, adding she spent a couple days a week in the field, sometimes traveling up to five hours to reach isolated communities. “Everyone in the villages was excited to be part of our programs. It just makes me happy to work with people who are so enthusiastic and eager.”

Her program, Resiliency in Northern Ghana, aimed to improve nutrition and food security in a mainly agricultural area that faces seasonal shortages. Bustinza worked with villagers and government officials to plan and budget resources. This included helping villagers acquire and use poultry and small livestock as a means of earning income from selling eggs, milk and meat.

“I worked to help improve the economic stability of households,” Bustinza noted. “We were teaching people how to save for the lean season and make money.”

Responding to the Ebola Crisis

Before Ghana, Bustinza worked in Liberia for Global Communities until mid-August 2014, when she was evacuated due to the Ebola outbreak. She was involved in Ebola-response efforts for several weeks before her evacuation, coordinating with groups such as UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Before the outbreak, one of her programs had provided assistance and training for women entrepreneurs.

“I designed the reallocation of funds to train our graduates to make their businesses Ebola-free and to spread awareness to their customers and families,” she explained. “We helped the government with payments to Ebola-response workers, and I also worked on community-based messaging.”

Working Around the World

Bustinza spoke of the sense of accomplishment she felt seeing the Liberian women become successful business owners, role models and community leaders. “We work together with them; we’re partners,” she remarked. “Seeing their dedication to achieving their goals, whatever those goals may be … that’s why I entered this field.”

While in Kazakhstan with the Peace Corps, Bustinza’s efforts focused on community development and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). She worked with an NGO to raise awareness of human trafficking by developing a curriculum to educate high school students about it. “Migration to work is common in Kazakhstan, and when people accept jobs in another city or country, they would not expect to be taken advantage of, so awareness of the dangers is important,” she said.

Bustinza also worked for Global Communities in Nigeria, Tajikistan and the West Bank of Palestine, and she has visited another 20 or so countries for pleasure, including her father’s homeland, Peru. She noted the hardship of being separated from friends and family, adding that making new friends and building relationships are important parts of her job, along with adapting to a variety of cultures.

“There are always cultural challenges you don’t realize until you learn them — sometimes the hard way,” Bustinza commented. “Now, I feel quite comfortable going to any country.” 

— By Bob Grimson ’81
Bustinza portrait: Annie Mueller, Global Communities; Other photography: courtesy Erica Bustinza ’04.