What inspired you to investigate microâ€economic development?
Muhammad Yunus, the creator of micro credit, was the person I first spoke to about this issue. He raised the idea that credit was not a privilege but a right. After hearing that, and having similar conversations with World Vision's Tim Costello, I realised what SEE Solutions donors and World Vision could achieve by giving a hand up not a hand out. It's longâ€term, it's about giving communities a future, and that's a powerful thing.
How did your World Vision trips to Cambodia and Ethiopia enhance your understanding of community economic development?
When you are spending time with people in their communities you see firstâ€hand the dramatic effects that certain programs have on people and their families. Then of course you see the ripple effects that this has for the entire community. I remember very clearly one woman receiving a loan for the first time in her life. Finally she had the chance to get ahead. I spent time with her family, and got to know about her life, and then also saw the broader work going on in the community. I could really see how poverty needs to be tackled from many levels: infrastructure, health, climate change... so many aspects contribute to poverty. A comprehensive approach is needed. This is what World Vision is doing with SEE Solutions funded projects. What I love about World Vision's work is their aim to empower communities so they can be left to succeed on their own. SEE Solutions is the best manifestation of that ideal that I have encountered.
What are your views on economic development as a solution to poverty?
For long term development, the entire economic environment of the community has to be affected. Support must come from the Government down, of course, but at the grass roots level it needs to have an impact directly on communities. When communities are empowered, the effects can be farâ€ reaching and quite astounding.
You say you have seen lives transformed by economic development. Is there one person in particular whose story you'd like to share?
The story of Dukale, who I met in Ethiopia, is truly one of the most inspiring stories I've come across in all my life. He has five children and grows coffee on a small farm. With help from World Vision he has installed a methane gas converter so the gas from his two goats and cow powers the stove he cooks with and the lights he reads by. Most importantly, it also powers a roadside cafÃ© he operates to sell coffee to make extra income. He can now look after the dayâ€toâ€day expenses of his family and
save for the future. Dukale has inspired me and my family to look at our lives and consider what we could change in our world to reduce our footprint.
As a World Vision ambassador, what do you hope SEE Solutions will achieve in years to come?
I hope and trust that projects funded by SEE Solutions will provide the communities with the support they need to help themselves. World Vision facilitates funding disbursements and tracks the progress of the communities so they are supported all the way. Again, it's a hand up not a hand out. I hope communities become self sufficient. This is a great way for Australians to help, to change the prospects of not just one person but an entire community, and not just now but for the future.