Whole Planet Foundation was founded to reach people living in poverty around the globe where Whole Foods Market sources products. We are excited to announce our new partnership with Concern Worldwide in Burundi to support their Terintambwe program, which provides case management services to ultra-poor households so they have opportunities to become more self-sufficient and start small businesses. This project is the foundation’s fourth grant in the ultra-poor graduation space. (You can read more about some of our other ultra-poor graduation projects here). Whole Planet Foundation funding will help Concern Burundi deliver business start-up capital to an estimated 4000 ultra-poor households.
Concern implements a comprehensive two year graduation program which has several interconnected components. Participants are selected through a transparent and multi-pronged process to ensure fairness and collaboration. Other components include mentoring and training, financial access through the formation of VSLAs (Village Savings and Loan Associations), consumption support, and enterprise creation. Participants develop business plans together with Concern Burundi staff and receive about $84 in start-up capital of for their business idea. Concern Burundi staff members provide business training and coaching to help these new entrepreneurs succeed.
A few months ago, in the rural collines, or hills, of Cibitoke, I had an opportunity to meet with households who were at different stages of Concern Burundi’s graduation program. Some had participated during the pilot phase, and had already officially exited the program a few years ago. They continued growing their banana trading business and were making improvements to their houses. One participant had started in the program about a year ago, and had just received a business start-up capital injection for a small kiosk on a main road. And a few were just a few months into the program, starting to save with a group of peers.
Among the participants there were members of often ostracized minorities, internally displaced persons, and orphans who were supporting siblings. Each participant had a different story to tell. But all of them shared similar goals with each other, goals which I believe are common throughout the world: starting and growing a business; helping siblings and children get better educations and better opportunities; and building ever stronger homes and lives for ourselves and our loved ones.
Zoe So is the Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa for Whole Planet Foundation.