Five years ago students from a Bournemouth school had a dream of helping people from developing countries set up their own businesses.
So how has a project set up by students from Dorset set about changing the lives of people from far across the globe?
Project Emerge was formed in 2011 by four Year 9 students who wanted to help budding entrepreneurs from the developing world who had great business ideas but not the resources to set them up.
They raised enough funds to make interest-free loans, ranging from $25 to $250, to aspiring businessmen and women.
The social enterprise rapidly built up, attracting significant attention and praise in the process.
And last year the students were given the platform to really promote their life-changing enterprise when internet giants AOL helped them set up their own website.
Since its formation other students have become involved and taken on the baton of growing Project Emerge.
CEO of Avonbourne Trust, Debbie Godfrey-Phaure, said: “This has been an amazing journey for all our students who have been involved in Project Emerge.
“In just five years they have provided loans to more than 200 entrepreneurs in countries such as Uganda, Bolivia, Guatemala and Tajikistan.
“They wanted to make an impact but I don’t think even in their wildest dreams could they have imagined just what a global change they would make to people’s lives.”
Project Emerge uses microfinance company Kiva to loan the money the students have raised – and has become Kiva’s biggest UK lender.
For some projects Project Emerge has been the sole lender and for others they have been contributors along with other Kiva members.
Among the many stories of how these loans have helped people turn their lives around is the one of Gina – a sugarcane farmer from the Philippines.
Gina used her loan to grow her business, which in turn has meant she could fund her children through school.
She said: “The challenges I encounter daily are providing for my children’s daily allowance when they go to school and the capital that we spend on our farm animals.
“I used the loan to start my first business and I can say my business is still growing.
“Together with my husband and children, we always work hard to make it bigger in the future.
“I’m planning to improve my business, not just in farming as I want to invest in other types of businesses.
“I am very thankful for people putting their trust in me and lending me money.”
The work and dedication of the Project Emerge team is on-going.
They organise fundraising events throughout the year and encourage students from across Avonbourne Trust’s four academies to vote for which business project should receive loans.
When the loans are paid back the money is re-invested to help even more new businesses emerge, businesses like these:
- Mexican farmer Jamie was loaned $475 to purchase a bio-digester so he could turn his cow’s manure into renewable energy.
- $1,325 went to Luz Marina from Columbia so she could set up a shoe business.
- Jane, a retailer from Kenya, was loaned $1,000 so she could buy more stock for her growing business.
Student Lizzie Tanswell, age 13, said: “By granting small loans we are helping people to kick-start their business without making them rely on charity.
“This kind of support is helping people to be self-dependant, able to keep their children in education and also benefit their own community.
“Who knows the next Bill Gates or Anita Roddick might be among the people we support, and that is really exciting.”
More information about Project Emerge and the people these impressive young students have supported can be found at www.projectemerge.org.uk
Note to editors: For more information please contact Rachel Read, account director at Deep South Media, on 01202 534487.