Written by Hanna Lee
The Adventure Project is the collaboration of two women from different backgrounds who through a chance meeting in Liberia, West Africa embarked on a journey to end extreme poverty. After volunteering with orphans in rural Romania, Becky Straw decided to dedicate her life to finding solutions to end global poverty. She went back to graduate school to earn a Masters in International Social Welfare & Social Enterprise. Straw then helped launch a nonprofit to bring clean water to thousands of disadvantaged people in areas that desperately needed it
Meanwhile in Iowa, Jody Lander, a well-known mommy blogger, and her husband had just adopted their two youngest children from Sierra Leone. The experience was life changing for the couple.Â They decided to leave their small midwestern town and dedicate their lives to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to help those in need living in developing countries.
Straw and Landers met in Liberia while volunteering in the region.Â They stayed friends and through regular chats started discussing how they could join forces to address some of the issues they encountered throughout their travels. â€śJody realized that her twins would still have their mom if she hadnâ€™t died giving birth, and the lack of access to medical supplies and scarcity of jobs in these countries is at the root of the problem,â€ť Straw recalls. â€śWe knew we wanted to be a part of creating jobs in this region and change the way we as Americans give to make it fun and exciting.â€ť
Straw and Landers witnessed innovation from inspiring social entrepreneurs who were making significant impact on the ground and wanted to increase the opportunities for others to pursue social enterprise so they founded The Adventure Project in 2010. The non-profit organization aims to increase investments in positive social enterprises around the world. Straw and Landers loosely describe a â€śsocial enterpriseâ€ť as a business model with social impact. â€śSocial enterprise is such a broad term and can apply to anything, a lot provide exported goods like Krochet Kids for example, but mainly for us itâ€™s about supporting job skills to impact local economy,â€ť Straw explains.
The nonprofit raises funds from traditional sources, like corporate sponsors and high-income donors, and allocates those funds to social enterprises that are creating jobs in developing countries.Â The Adventure Project focuses on one humanitarian issue each quarter that affects global poverty and invests in an innovative, low-cost solution to help. The quarterly focuses are one of four humanitarian issues: environment, water, hunger and health.
â€śWe look for the most robust solutions to impact the most people,â€ť says Straw. â€śIn the past, weâ€™ve supported solutions to help poor health care workers, water mechanics to fix broken wells, irrigation and the list goes on.â€ť Straw and Landers are determined to create partnerships with the best organizations tackling these global problems through their innovative business strategies. The Adventure Project helps these organizations grow through venture capital so they can achieve their vision.
A main motivation for Straw and Landers to create the nonprofit was the desire to tell a different story about Africa. â€śThere is a feeling in The West that the people of Africa are asking for handouts, or are made up entirely of child soldiers etc.,â€ť explains Straw. â€śWe wanted to talk about all of the solutions and positivity we witnessed, and the potential to end extreme poverty in our lifetime.â€ť Both co-founders believe in effective allocation of aid in developing countries and emphasize the need to create jobs in local economies so they can prosper.
To date, The Adventure Project achieved results in all four of the humanitarian issues theyâ€™ve taken on. In Haiti, with an estimated 3,000 children dying each year from toxic smoke, the nonprofit funded the Lifeline initiative to get charcoal-efficient stoves into the kitchen of every mother. The local factory has produced a batch of 900 stoves, with 1,734 to be completed by the end of the year. Approximately one third of all wells in India are broken down, with no skilled mechanics to repair them. The nonprofit funded WaterAid two establish two mechanic shops in the district of Jehanabad, in Bihar. In less than a year, the mechanics are averaging 27 repaired wells per month.
Throughout the world there are 350 million children who never see a health care worker. In Uganda, Living Goods utilizes the â€śAvon ladyâ€ť model where each female health care worker earns a living selling medicine at affordable prices and caring for an average of 700 people in their communities. So far, The Adventure Project has raised enough to provide uniforms, tote bags and health care education classes to 168 future health care promoters next year.
The nonprofit also addresses hunger in Kenya by funding five sales representatives to travel through remote regions and sell irrigation pumps to rural farmers. Each pump increases a farmerâ€™s crop yield 1,000% and creates two jobs (one in farming, another in crop transport and sales). This social enterprise struck a personal chord with Straw. â€śWe asked to meet with a Kenyan woman who just purchased an irrigation pump to gauge her opinion about products.Â We visited her unaware that her husband had just died,â€ť recalls Straw. When Straw asked what having the pump meant for her family she said, â€śBefore, my children werenâ€™t able to get to school, but now we sell produce for money and I make sure they can still eat.â€ť She told Straw the pump was a miracle because the family would never of been able to support themselves otherwise after the death of her husband. Straw continues, â€śI just want to be able to get products like that into the hands of billions of people who need them as a jumpstart to improving their lives. These things will get them beyond barely getting by.â€ť
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