The inspiration for Eliminate Poverty Now dates back to 2005. It began with an editorial in the New York Times. For some time we had been looking for ways to get involved in Africa. We just weren’t sure how. Then we read an article about the Millennium Villages Project. Founded by Jeffrey Sachs, a noted economist at Columbia University, it described an enlightened and integrated approach to the elimination of extreme poverty in Africa. We were intrigued.
We made an initial grant for construction of a flour mill in Ethiopia. Results were fantastic, which left us eager to do more. We read Jeff’s book, The End of Poverty, which educated us to the reasons why over 1 billion people find themselves locked in a poverty trap. And it provided a strategy to help them escape and start down the path to economic progress. Now we were hooked.
One thing quickly led to another. We started traveling to Africa and met remarkable people doing remarkable work. Our list of projects and partners rapidly expanded, both within the Millennium Villages Project and beyond.
In 2010, we officially established Eliminate Poverty Now as a 501(c)(3) organization to increase the visibility, scope and funding for our activities. Today, we work with partners on the ground in 11 sub-Saharan countries, ranging from agricultural scientists in Niger to pre-school teachers in the slums of Nairobi. But all share a common goal: to create greater opportunity for the hard-working people of Africa. Opportunity to help themselves and help those around them.
Jeff Sachs challenged us all with this powerful observation: “We are the first generation in the history of the world with the ability to eradicate extreme poverty. We have the means, the resources and the know-how. All we lack is the will.”
Ah yes, the will. Over 2,000 years ago a famous Jewish scholar by the name of Hillel posed these essential questions: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am for myself only, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
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Much has been written about aid to Africa being counterproductive, especially when large sums are given at the national level. Aid, the argument goes, kills initiative and promotes dependence and corruption. We’ve seen enough to suspect those criticisms may have merit.
Eliminate Poverty Now is not in the aid business. We focus on investment. We believe in helping people help themselves to improve their lives through their own initiative and hard work.
Our investment falls into two broad categories:
• Investing in projects with an immediate economic return.
• Investing in education for adults as well as children to enhance their future earnings potential and prospects in life.
And, as former business people, we look to create the biggest bang for the buck and make efficient use of available talent and money.
Specifically, we look to invest in projects that:
• Offer significant economic improvement for the participating individuals.
• Become self-sustaining over time, paying back the initial investment and recycling funds within the community to create a “virtuous cycle.”
• Promote the earnings potential and future prospects for women.
• Carry high odds of success and are quick and easy to implement.
• Build skills and capabilities within the community.
• Serve as a model for what is possible, demonstrating the potential in specific types of intervention.
All of our investments are made at the local level and with partners who take direct responsibility for successful project implementation.
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We are the first generation in history with the power to eliminate extreme poverty.
The time to do it is NOW!
John gets a warm welcome from school children in Kisumu, Kenya.
Judy talks with students in the Millennium Villages Tiby Cluster, Mali
John and Judy Craig are co-founders of Eliminate Poverty Now.
John has focused his “second career” on promoting economic development in the developing world. John retired from his first career in 2003. He spent 26 years working in marketing and general management for Kraft Foods and Warner-Lambert. While at Kraft, John spent 8 years as President of Lender’s Bagels, helping that company successfully realize its mission to “bagelize America.” At Warner-Lambert, John served 8 years as President of Adams USA, a company marketing such well-known brands as Trident and Dentyne gum, Certs mints and Halls cough drops. In addition to his work with Eliminate Poverty Now, John guest lectures on the topic of leadership in business under the broad theme of “How nice guys and nice organizations can finish first.”
Judy is John’s wife, mother to Ruth and Liz, and mother-in-law to Brian. Judy worked for one large company, started and sold one small company, and then left the paid workforce to raise Ruth and Liz, and to work as a volunteer in Jewish and community organizations. Her particular passion is helping poor women achieve greater earnings potential.
Both Judy and John received their MBAs from Harvard University in 1976.
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