Students in the Office Administration trade at the PIVOT center visited the Mercy Corps Action Center in downtown Portland on Friday. The public center is one of two in the nation that provides insight to the organizations fight against hunger; the other center is located in New York City. Mercy Corps was just finishing setting up it’s Seeds of Prosperity exhibit, brought to the center by Whole Foods, Whole Planet Foundation. The exhibit focused on specific countries facing poverty including Nepal, Guatemala, and India. The Whole Planet Foundation gives women in these countries micro-loans to fund small businesses. These loans can be anywhere from $25 to $200, and not only helps improve the quality of life for the business owner, but is thought to improve the whole community well-being as well. The exhibit featured video, stories, photographs, and goods like blankets, baskets, and clothing.
Erica, a representative from the Mercy Corps bank in Portland spoke with our students about what it takes for someone in the United States to start and fund their own business through a traditional bank. Mercy Corps bank gives alternatives to women in the Portland community. They have started a small business center and offer classes and seminars related to financial literacy, accounting, and management. Women work towards developing a business plan, and when they are ready, Mercy Corps can help fund their dreams. Mercy Corps agrees to match $1,000 with $3,000 for a well developed business plan. This offer goes out to local women who are in any stage of the entrepreneurial process. They assist those who are just in the planning phases, but also those who have been running a business for years and need a little reorganizing.
Students were exposed to the mission of Mercy Corps, and the thousands of employees they have worldwide working to end poverty. For some of our students, it was more than just something that was happening halfway around the world. Like most Job Corps centers, PIVOT has a very diverse population. Two of our students moved to Portland less than three years ago from Nepal. They had the opportunity to watch video of volunteers assisting local people in rebuilding damage caused by a devastating flood. Our students happened to be in Nepal when that flood occurred, and they could relate to the disaster it caused.
The Education program at the Action Center works to bring awareness to people of all ages. For our students in the Office Administration program it gave them a chance to look at not only what it takes to open and manage a small business in their local community of Portland, but also to contrast that with how hard women across the world are working to provide a stable income for their families and communities.