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How Business Fights Poverty: Stories from a Global Network

by Lauren Rahman

Business is uniquely positioned to respond to the needs of this world.  The Partners Worldwide global network works every day to leverage this truth for change. We recognize that business is a calling to do God’s work by creating flourishing economic environments in all parts of the world.

In places where poverty devastates communities and robs individuals of their ability to realize their full, God-given potential, we work to catalyze entrepreneurs and job-creators. Through business, these local leaders are fighting poverty and the various effects poverty has on communities and individuals—physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental.

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The most obvious form of poverty we encounter is physical poverty—a lack of material things that contribute to our well-being—shelter, food, clothing, medicine. Business gives families access to these things, both through income from jobs and by providing the goods and services needed to flourish.

Derek Hoogland, now Director of Partners Worldwide Canada, observed this back in 2009 as a PW intern just arriving in Monrovia, Liberia. The first place Derek visited was Gbarnga, the country’s second largest city with 40,000 residents where only one medical clinic served the population, and the clinic had only been open two months. Determiner Medical Clinic was started by Anthony and Rose Kollie, a couple with a medical background who had been previously displaced by Liberia’s civil war.

“Our community is far from the major public health facility,” said Anthony. “In view of this, community dwellers found it difficult to get to the (hospital or clinic) in case of emergency.” Serving first through Determiner Medical Store, selling medicine and supplies, the couple expanded to meet the demand from clients for medical services. “Their impact is two-fold,” says Derek, “their seven employees are earning sustainable income to support their families while the physical needs of the community are met through their work.”

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The Kollie’s medical businesses grew/are growing with help from LEAD INC, the Partners Worldwide local partner in Liberia. The story of another LEAD client, illustrates the emotional impact business has on an individual, how business brings dignity and restores purpose, freeing individuals from the emotional effects of poverty.

Kebeh Sumo runs a retail shop the income from which supports her four children, her husband, and herself. Yet, the business means much more than money. When Kebeh was asked “Why do you do business?” she said: “Business can make you to be a human being.” Kebeh has innate desires—which every human shares—to work and create, to act with purpose, to enjoy relationships, and to provide for oneself and one’s family. Business enables Kebeh and others to fulfil those desires, to live abundantly.

But living abundantly doesn’t stop at physical and emotional well-being. Knowing that ultimate purpose, fulfilment, and spiritual well-being come from a relationship with himself, Jesus said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

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Grace Gazula, a client of Business Seva, our local partner in India, knows Jesus is the only source of complete fulfilment. In her city of Hyderabad, with over 7 million residents, hundreds of thousands struggle with shortage of space, high cost of living, and lack of employment opportunities. As a successful businesswoman in the medical transcription industry, Grace feels called to not only meet needs by creating jobs, but to build relationships with employees and clients as a means of sharing the Gospel.

“People come to Christian businesses looking for jobs. Without even placing an advertisement, strangers come to us to inquire about positions,” says Grace, who, since 2008, has grown her business Ark Med Solutions from six employees to 21. “People love to work for Christian companies. We are transparent, God-fearing, and work for the growth of the company.”

These 21 employees, both Christians and Muslims, not to mention her clients and vendors, all experience Grace’s love for the Lord in their interactions with her. As they watch her run the business, they also look to her as a counselor who treats them like family. “If they’re struggling in something, we have a word of prayer, and I share that God will take care of them,” says Grace. “Some have converted and become Christians. Praise God!”

This spiritual growth—not to mention physical and emotional—takes place within community, catalyzed by connections between individuals. Grace’s employees see her as a counselor and family member, a social connection and support they wouldn’t have without her business. Each employee gains access to a myriad of connections they might not have otherwise—growing and shaping their social network.

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Business also serves as an engine that drives whole communities. Successful entrepreneurs and business owners are stabilizing forces and catalysts for connection, often mobilizing groups of people to work together in efforts that are the epitome of the adage, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The impact we see businesses have in their communities by building social connections and networks is a testament to this truth.

When we have the ability to care for ourselves and our loved ones, we are freed to turn our attention to our larger community—our shared global community—and ask how we can care for creation. Community members in Pacto Sumaco, Ecuador know this well. Living in the Amazon rainforest, farmers constantly weigh the challenge of providing for their families’ basic needs against their desire to conserve the tracts of untouched, megadiverse forest that they own.

Kaya Foundation, Partners Worldwide’s local partner in the rainforest, is committed to walking alongside Pacto Sumaco as they balance these objectives. “Farmers used to illegally cut down trees whenever they needed cash for planting season, school fees, or basic consumption,” says Ecuador Partnership Manager Carissa DeYoung. “With Kaya’s assistance, community members created a small loan fund through which they now finance those expenses instead of contributing to deforestation.”

Local leader Germanico Ruiz explains their situation saying, “We want to preserve the forest, but when there is no work, we must do what we can to make a living.” As farmers gain access to loans and new markets, they have committed to maintain their rainforest tracts while also substituting organic fertilizer to decrease contaminants in their fields. Agribusiness that increases outputs and income also helps free farmers to care for Creation in a way they couldn’t before.

 

Business can fight physical poverty, heal the emotional effects of poverty, facilitate sharing spiritual wealth, develop stronger social networks, and enable better care of our environment.

 

As businesses start and grow, impact grows as well. Whole economies and nations begin to flourish in ways they haven’t before or haven’t in a long time. The power of business—creating dignified jobs, providing goods and services, connecting people, meeting human needs—can transform the world. Indeed, it already has been.

These stories from across our global network are evidence of the power of business to end poverty so all may have life and have it abundantly.

When entrepreneurs and businesspeople come together in a global network, sharing resources, knowledge, and inspiration, what we can accomplish individually is multiplied. Discover how you can join us fighting poverty through business visit Partners Worldwide website

Lauren RahmanLauren Rahman serves the global network of Partners Worldwide in her role managing e-communications. She joined the team in May 2012 after graduating from Indiana Wesleyan University with a degree in Marketing and Writing. Lauren currently serves on the Editorial Board of the Business as Mission website. Lauren is passionate about the role of the business as mission movement in eliminating poverty through economic empowerment.