There are some moments that touch you so profoundly it’s nearly impossible to describe.
For Peggy Daniels Lee, it was an afternoon spent with women from rural Swaziland.
Lee, a clinical associate professor of operations and supply chain management, was in Swaziland this summer to plan a future study abroad experience for Kelley Indy students.
She’s among the IUPUI professors who’ve traveled to the small country in southern Africa with the intent of looking at the business of healthcare in a developing world, especially one where the prevalence of AIDS is nearly 30 percent of the population, the highest in the world. They spent the week meeting with multiple businesses, the United States Ambassador to Swaziland, researchers at the University of Swaziland, the country’s ministers of commerce and economic development, and even a prince of Swaziland to figure out how business students can best help in the country.
Before her trip, Professor Lee spoke with a woman who teaches women living in rural Swaziland to knit and embroider so they can sell their work to earn money.
When Lee asked if she could bring anything along for her visit, she learned the women needed reading glasses to see their work. The IUPUI Honors College had done a similar collection in 2015. So, Lee bought several boxes of reading glasses—not thinking much about the potential significance of that gift.
“It was the cost of about three lunches for me. But for these women, it was everything. They walked five to six miles to meet me, just for glasses,” Lee said as she recalled the day.
In that moment, when she gave them off-the-shelf reading glasses, she understood the magnitude of her gift.
“This older woman put on her glasses, and she looked out the window. The smile on her face, it’s so incredibly difficult to describe. It’s almost as if she discovered a different world,” Professor Lee explained. “I never thought that what I was doing would help somebody experience life like that. To me, it was miraculous.”
“I’m tearing up just thinking about it. It was as if her whole life was going to change because now she could see what she was doing. Those women needed reading glasses for more than embroidery. They needed them, simply, to see.
“I don’t know that there’s a kind of joy you get from just sharing an afternoon with a group of people. I got so much out of that one afternoon with those women. They got a pair of glasses, and I walked away with a feeling that I’d done something really good. It was the best part of the entire trip,” she said. “It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had.
“This experience demonstrates the need and reason for us to go to Swaziland. It shows how small things can make a big impact,” Lee added. “We’re so caught up in our own lives. But there’s so much more than that.”
It’s that type of meaningful experience she’d like Kelley Indy students to experience on a study abroad trip.
“Working with small businesses, developing social enterprises, meeting real people, and talking about real things—if our students can have moments like that, it will be life-changing,” said Lee. “I want Kelley students to not only do the technical things, but I also want them to experience being a vehicle for improving somebody else’s life.”
Proof that Kelley moments can happen anywhere, anytime. Single moments that move you and make you better—and change you for a lifetime.
A delegation of educators and government officials from Swaziland will visit IUPUI in October. The visit is a result of trips to Swaziland in the last year or so by deans from the School of Public Health, Nursing, Informatics, Engineering and Technology, and Kelley Indianapolis. They’ll tour facilities, meet deans and faculty, and discuss ways to collaborate.