For 15 years, Enterprise Mentors International has been helping people in developing countries pull themselves and their families out of poverty by extending them "a hand up, not a handout."
On Oct. 28, the organization observed its milestone anniversary by honoring the First Presidency and the Church for their support and contributions to the micro-credit organization that fosters development of small, family-owned businesses in the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru. (See Sept. 4, 2004, Church News .)
At a dinner in Salt Lake City's Marriott Hotel, President Gordon B. Hinckley told the capacity audience of some 960 friends and donors, "It was a great and significant thing that Menlo Smith was called to preside over the Baguio Mission in the Philippines. This good man who lived in St. Louis, with his wife, went to that area, and his eyes were opened to the tremendous load, if I could put it that way, carried by those who have so very little. . . . Out of that experience came a tremendous appreciation for the burden carried by the poor of the world."
And out of that appreciation, Enterprise Mentors International was formed. As recounted during the dinner program, Brother Smith, after returning home, joined with other Church members who had been successful in business to put the process in motion. They consulted Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, who suggested they contact Warner P. Woodworth of the Marriott School of Management at BYU. He and Steven H. Mann, who had experience in international training, organized a group of graduate students to study opportunities and develop networking contacts in the Philippines. A strategic planning team met in Manila in September 1989 and concluded that the poor in the country could best be served by a self-help program offering micro-enterprise training, mentoring and micro-credit.
In January 1990, EMI was formed with support and encouragement from the Church. Simultaneously, its first partner organization, the Philippines Enterprise Development Foundation, was organized in Manila with a local board of volunteer directors and a small staff. Today, EMI works with seven partner foundations in the five countries where it has an influence. One third of a million people have escaped poverty through the formation of small businesses with loans funded by donors to EMI.
In his remarks, President Hinckley said the greatest "pandemic" in the world today is poverty, affecting "hundreds of millions of people.
"I cannot believe that our Father in heaven, who's the Father of us all, likes to see His children suffer in poverty and want," the Church president said. He noted, "I count it one of my privileges in this life to have walked with the poor in many parts of the earth — in the Philippines, where I had the opportunity of beginning the work (of the Church) in 1961, and in many other areas, areas of Asia, areas of Africa, areas of South America. . . . Thank the Lord for the goodness of EMI and its tributary organizations in reaching out with such a successful and wonderful and widespread program."
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, said, "I like the thought expressed by another person that when one gives a bouquet of flowers, part of the fragrance of the flowers lingers on the hands of the giver. I'd like to say beyond that, you give more than flowers, and the lives you affect remain in your memories."
He added, "Generosity is your watchword, and handling everything in a proper way, a businesslike way, has resulted in a most successful and ongoing organization."
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, said, "Those of you who have had anything to do with the accomplishments of EMI should be very pleased and satisfied with what great work that has been done by this outstanding organization. However, I expect that we have only seen the beginning." He quoted Charles Dickens' character, Defarge, in A Tale of Two Cities, who said, "We shall not see the triumph." The character's wife replied, "We shall have helped it."
"Some of your accomplishments may not be seen immediately, but truly it is remarkable and growing," President Faust said. "However, you can all take pride in knowing that you will have helped it succeed."
Brother Smith, in his address, said the donated funds that came to the organization through that evening's gathering amount to more than $144,000. Like all donations to EMI, the entire amount will be applied to the individual programs abroad.
"The 144,000 means that we can now reach out to 10,286 additional families of six, or a total of 61,714 people as a result of what you have made possible through your attendance here tonight," Brother Smith said.
Enterprise Mentors is compatible with but differs in objective from the Church's own Perpetual Education Fund, he noted. "We serve entirely different audiences: The Perpetual Education Fund provides vocational and college educational loans to members of the Church; Enterprise Mentors provides simple business training and small-business loans to those of all faiths who will likely never see the inside of a college or vocational classroom. But we're seeing now, after 15 years, some of those families we have helped with children who are seeing the inside of college classrooms, something that they never dreamed of when their families were raising them."
He said that while EMI is in no way affiliated with the Church, the Church has been very helpful from the beginning of the program. It was the Church, he said, that sent out the mission presidents who formed the nucleus that started the program; that Keith McMullin, now of the Presiding Bishopric, participated in planning meetings that led to the development of the first partner foundation in the Philippines; and that matching funds from Church Humanitarian Services helped launch EMI.
"It was the Welfare Services manual of the Church from which we have plagiarized so many of our founding principles and practices," he said. "It was the leaders of the Church who encouraged us to reach out beyond the borders of the Church to help those of all faiths as we pursued our mission."
Two directors of local EMI partner foundations also spoke to the gathering. Carlos Rivas, executive director of Fundacion Mentores Empresariales in El Salvador, who recently returned from presiding over the Peru Arequipa Mission of the CHurch, said his organization has grown 100 precent over the last few years, due to a 98 percent payback rate on the loans it administers. He spoke of Santos Nieto, who now serves as a stake patriarch, whose family was served by the foundation. "What he could not accomplish through the many years in his business he did in a few months with the right training and loans." Three generations of the family have been blessed, as the grandchildren now have a chance to attend college or vocational training.
"Our loan officers are mainly returned missionaries," Brother Rivas said. "Our workplace is a special one, and we enjoy spiritual devotionals every Monday. We pray with the group for the Lord to guide us and to find ways to help the most in need. We feel the hand of the Lord guiding us every day."
Jovy Guanzon, executive director of the Philippine Microenterprise Development Foundation and the president of the Manila Philippines Stake, said his organization is now self-sufficient after six years of operation and is no longer dependent upon financial assistance from EMI. Its operating revenue now equals the cost of service to its clients, which means that from now on, all financial donations will be allocated as loans to clients.
Brother Guanzon told of Mike Espinilla, a polio victim whose determination has helped him learn to walk without crutches or braces. "Mike does not allow his handicap to limit his zest for life and to exploit his native talents and passion for work," he said. "Mike loves to mold small glass figurines made up of discarded fluorescent bulbs." With a loan from the foundation, he was able to buy a sizable stock of discarded bulbs, freeing him from "the difficult necessity of making a few products now and then selling them in order to make a few pesos to buy food for the table and then to buy raw materials again to start another cycle." Attenders at the dinner each received a glass swan figurine that he made. "Kindly take them home or to your office, where they will serve as gentle reminders of that great hope you have placed in the hearts of thousands of families like Mike's," Brother Guanzon said.
EMI supporters help through donations, by hosting neighborhood meetings, by contacting foundations or corporations that may wish to contribute and by making bequests. Information is found on the Web site, www.enterprise-mentors.org.
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