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Whole Planet Foundation is Empowering Women Worldwide

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Joy Stoddard shares how her organization is improving women’s lives through microcredit loans and how Austin women can help make a difference. 

By Joy Stoddard, Photo courtesy of Joy Stoddard 

Like so many of us, my role model was my mom. She was glorious, tough and demanding! As a successful business-woman and the head of our household, she really did it all. Alongside her, my father would say, “You can do anything you want in life,” and, “If you’re going to work eight hours a day, you should do something you like.” When they put me on a public bus in the early 1980s to travel to a nearby town and serve as a hospital candy striper at 12 years old, I saw it as an adventure and an opportunity to help people. That moment signified the first time I knew deeply that service would become the passion that fuels my life, thanks, in large part, to my parents. 

Now I am motivated by the women I meet in Africa, Asia and all over the Americas. As Whole Planet Foundation’s executive development and outreach director, my job is to raise awareness and funds for the world’s poorest people, mostly women. Whole Planet Foundation is a Whole Foods Market nonprofit dedicated to alle- viating global poverty where the company sources products. In 75 countries, including the United States, Whole Planet Foundation funds microcredit loans that are usually less than $200, offered with no formal contract or collateral, repaid and reloaned again and again. These revolving funds then help reach more women, providing more opportunity. The repayment rate is an incredible 97 percent because microcredit as a vehicle to alleviate poverty works, but also because most of these women have been living in generational poverty. 

With this opportunity to change their own lives through their own hard work and ingenuity, they can create or expand a home- based business, send a kid to school, improve the family’s living conditions or increase nutrition levels, as well as dream for the future. The dignity that comes from moving from perceiving yourself as a beggar to a businesswoman is transformative! 

At home in Austin, Whole Planet Foundation donated $1 million to our microfinance partner to fund microloans for businesses such as taco trucks, food stands, mobile nail salons, catalogue-jewelry-sales companies and handicraft enterprises. The road to economic independence is a gift we should all be able to experience. 

How can you help to empower women all over the globe? Please consider joining our annual Prosperity Campaign in Whole Foods Market stores March 1 through 14, when you can round up your change or donate a dollar at the registers. Small change is big change when microcredit is the vehicle and when we all come together to alleviate poverty. Since 2006, shoppers have donated $43 million, all of which has been donated to the cause since Whole Foods Market covers 100 percent of foundation operating costs. Whole Planet Foundation has disbursed $71 million through worldwide microfinance partners, funding 3.1 million microcredit loans and creating 17 million opportunities for microentrepreneurs and their family members to live better lives. 

Empowering women the world over contributes to their well- ness and well-being and helps me live my purpose instead of working for a living. I am well-traveled, having visited 40 countries and 48 states, but in all of my travels, the experience of meeting microcredit clients and seeing them flourish is what fuels my energy. Once, while I was in Indonesia, a microcredit client told me, “I will be thinking of you [in the United States]and you will be thinking of me [in Indonesia]and together, we will draw strength to move through our life challenges.” She was right! 

Please visit our website, wholeplanetfoundation.org, to learn more, or find me on LinkedIn. 

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