'The Adventure Project' Teaches Men And Women How To Fish
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
2017 will, undoubtedly, prove to be an adventure, but for many, it won’t be one that they embrace with hopeful optimism or excitement. When basic human needs remain in question, how can they? It’s a question Co-Founders Becky Straw and Jody Landers have been committed to answering through
The Adventure Project, an innovative and highly aware 501c3 who takes “giving” to a whole new level.
Although, recognizably, the distribution of financial means and food aid is imperative in some cases, what The Adventure Project understands is the critical nature and long term benefits of arming individuals - living in challenging circumstances and underprivileged communities - with needed, professional skill sets in order to mitigate the continued suffering and starvation of themselves, their families, and their communities. By acting as the venture capital firm to organizations that can teach men and women to “fish”, The Adventure Project is offering hope and future to those buried in despair.
As Becky Straw puts it, “The training of one individual to become a 'hand pump mechanic' results in the ability for every farmer beholden to a particular well to feed an additional seventy people through one full crop produced. Currently, one-third of all of the wells in Africa are broken.”
It seems to me, The Adventure Project has adopted a very intelligent approach to solving a global problem. Our approach in learning more about this project through the interview below should be no less stellar.
What is your personal mantra?
Stop and listen. The more time I spent listening to people and asking the right questions, the more I realize that people all over the world want the same things.
Please provide a bit of background on your life.
I’ve always had a passion for "giving back". Growing up, my parents and my church always emphasized the ideas of social justice and charity. I graduated from Columbia University with a master’s in International Social Welfare. Before I founded The Adventure Project, I consulted for UNICEF’s Division of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene.
You founded The Adventure Project when and for what reason?
The idea for The Adventure Project first came from a trip I took to Haiti after the earthquake. I was with my co-founder Jody as well as a friend of mine, who is a humanitarian photographer at one of the largest displacement camps outside Port-au-Prince. Three intimidating, brawny men called out to us. I thought they wanted aid from us. We didn’t have anything to offer them, so we were nervous that they would be upset. They walked up to us and instead said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but we’re wondering if you are hiring, because we really want to work?”
It’s such a common misconception that we should give handouts to people living in poverty. People don’t want to be “saved”; they want what we all do -- jobs. They want to create careers for themselves so they can provide for their families and improve the economy in their communities.
How large a team do you currently have and how large a surface do you cover?
We currently have four employees and several interns. Right now, we’re operating several projects in both Kenya and Uganda. So far, we’ve created a thousand jobs, which have impacted over a million people.
Explain how you go about helping through The Adventure Project, including what makes you different from other organizations?
We approach the idea of charity through 'entrepreneurship'. We add "venture capital" so that local communities living in poverty can find long-term solutions. We invest in jobs by partnering with local organizations in developing countries. We create jobs in four different areas that affect people living in poverty the most: health, hunger, water, and the environment. We’re different because we don’t believe in handouts, but instead, we believe in an 'entrepreneurial aid model' that can bring people out of poverty with dignity.
As you live in the United States, why not focus your efforts on helping those needing aid in the United States?
The reality is that, in the U.S., everyone has access to a glass of clean water or can walk into a hospital if they need medical assistance. This isn’t possible for so many people living in places with extreme poverty. We’ve brought the first skilled healthcare workers to some of the communities we assist -- meaning that so many parents, finally, have someone to turn to when their kids get sick.
What is the biggest impediment to “teaching a man/woman to fish” so to speak that you encounter?
It’s easy to just give a man/woman a fish, but developing the actual teaching is, in itself, the biggest difficulty. We’re building local economies from the ground up, so we need to be certain that we provide individuals with tools so that they can turn a profit while also making sure that other people in their communities can afford their product or service. It’s not a matter of just sending donations straight to the people that need them, but instead, using donations to build a financial model that can truly help a community rise out of poverty.
What’s the toughest part of running The Adventure Project?
Our approach to charity is so different than most organizations, which makes it difficult for us to fit into a category of funding for companies to look at. It can be hard to find a way for us to position ourselves so that we can change this.
Share a specific example that would motivate social media mom influencers to get involved.
After I graduated college, I volunteered in Romania for a few months at a group home. There, so many parents would ask if we could take their children in - not because they didn’t want or love them - but because they couldn’t afford to take care of them. We want a world where every parent can provide for their kids.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
I want to leave the world a little bit better off than when I entered it.
As an enormous proponent of education and entrepreneurship, myself, I believe that the combination of both elements is imperative to solving most of today’s real crises. Is it any wonder that I welcomed the opportunity to learn about The Adventure Project and the two brilliant women and co-founders behind -- one of whom is a mom to six children and the recipient of the 2008 Hallmark Channel’s Remarkable Woman of the Year Award and the other, who has devoted her entire life to aiding her fellow man through her own educational and professional pursuits? Obviously, the sound wisdom arising from the age-old Chinese proverb noted above was never lost on Becky or Jody. Nor was their ability to put "words into action."
Just goes to show you the power of what true caring can do, even through $100 increments, which is exactly how most of The Adventure Project’s donations are received -- single donations of $100 each from people like you and me. Amazing, huh? Talk about savvy and steady fishermen. That’s a lot of nets to cast on a daily basis...even for Saint Peter.
Many thanks to Becky Straw and the O’HARA PROJECT for making this interview possible