On January 12th, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked the tiny island nation of Haiti. American public and the news media finally stopped talking about our nation’s dire economic situation, growing unemployment, and Obama’s falling poll numbers to concentrate on Haiti’s urgent needs.
The earthquake leveled Haiti’s capital city and killed over 100,000 people. Support poured in from every direction. However, it is mostly during these times of natural disasters that we are made aware of the needs outside our country. Disasters like these are happening everyday in the form of hunger, malaria, AIDS, and civil war. The UN estimates that around 15 million children die every year due to hunger. About 3 million die due to malaria, and a further 2 million die of AIDS, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
In most cases, the root cause of these problems is poverty. International organizations like the World Bank and the United Nations have made it their mission to end poverty, but their efforts fall short in a face of this massive problem.
I grew up in one such country where poverty and lack of governance create huge challenges. Though I was fortunate to be born in a family with means to give me a good livelihood, I saw the effects of poverty all around me. Nepal, a tiny Himalayan country sandwiched between two large neighbors, India and China, is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country recently came out of a decade long civil war that claimed over 13,000 lives and damaged much of the country’s infrastructure. However, people in the country remain resilient.
Though several foreign aid agencies and non-profit organizations have come into Nepal to offer support since the civil war ended, one aspect of economic development often gets overlooked: giving people the opportunity to help themselves. The people in Nepal, or any other developing country, do not need charity; what they really need is an opportunity.
I recently learned about two home grown organizations that were providing people such opportunities.
ChangeFusion Nepal is an organization that supports young Nepali entrepreneurs to fulfill their dreams. The organization provides mentorship, knowledge, funding, and networking to budding entrepreneurs. Their primary focus is to support the business ideas of young and disadvantaged people who do not have access to traditional sources of funding. During its first year in operation in 2009, ChangeFusion organized a national competition of 50 young entrepreneurs and chose to support six entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneur for Nepal , or E4N, is an organization started by young entrepreneurs to create a platform to share knowledge and expertise with other young and creative entrepreneurial people in the country. The group currently has around 2,000 members in their Facebook page and uses it to reach out to its network. They organize a monthly open seminar where they bring prominent Nepali entrepreneurs willing to share their knowledge and experience about doing business in Nepal.
Sagar Onta, one of the founding members of E4N, thinks entrepreneurship is the missing link in lifting masses out of poverty in the developing world. He says, â€œWhen you witness the raw entrepreneurship talent in every street corner shop of the developing world, you realize that lifting them to the next level in the value chain will be a big boost to the country’s economy.
Organizations like ChangeFusion and E4N are providing people the opportunities to literally pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Whether it is Haiti or Nepal, all the people in the developing world need such opportunities.