I’m not a marathon runner. Or a triathlete. Or a mountain climber. In fact, you could say that my only “extreme” passion is my obsession with fighting poverty at Upaya.
That being said, 2015 was my Everest.
When we started Upaya nearly 5 years ago, I knew this would be the hardest work I'd ever done. What I didn’t know was that in 2015, earthquakes, floods and fires would threaten our own offices and our partners', and that our team would be challenged by life-threatening illnesses and staff transitions.
Even in the face of all this adversity, even with this mountain to climb, 2015 has also been our greatest success. Thanks to our team’s dedication and tenacity, we:
Doubled Upaya’s investment portfolio! (10 partners and counting...)
Attracted 5x in follow-on investment capital
Had our 1st exit (and capital reinvestment)
Doubled our job numbers: Upaya’s partners are now employing 2,329 individuals
The tough stuff is not often featured in year-end letters from small non-profits, but I think it’s an important story to tell. It is not only authentic, it exemplifies our spirit of resilience and teamwork. Included in this newsletter are two other fearless individuals: Jamuna and Wilma. I hope you read their stories. Their struggles and successes continue to fuel my commitment to this work, and have helped me raise the bar for 2016.
Next year, our goal is to double our outreach once again, and create over 5,000 jobs in 2016 for families like Jamuna’s. As I share these aspirations, I also extend my deepest gratitude. This work wouldn’t be possible without our very dedicated “base camp” team: You! I thank you sincerely for making this rocky year one that ended with such celebration and victory.
So, I take back what I said. I AM a mountain climber. At Upaya, we all are. We are the risk takers. The do-ers. The believers that it can be done.
Thank you for being a part of this hard, beautiful, life-changing work.
Meet Bill & Judy Harrington. (San Diego, CA)
For the second year in a row, Bill and Judy Harrington have issued a special challenge for first time donors. Make a gift by the end of the year, and they will match up to $250, dollar for dollar!
“We want to support entrepreneurship among the neediest people in the world. By supporting Upaya, we can accomplish that and recycle our donor dollars several times, creating an even larger impact.” - Bill & Judy Harrington
At just 23, after fleeing an abusive marriage with little money and a young son, Jamuna is rebuilding her life thanks to a steady job as a childcare provider through Upaya's partner Maitri. The job is giving Jamuna stability and the ability to dream of a better future for her young son. Watch Jamuna's story now.
Maitri helps women from disadvantaged backgrounds work in childcare, geriatric care and housekeeping by providing technical training, job placement and support services. To date, Maitri has created more than 220 jobs for women like Jamuna throughout Assam and West Bengal, India.
"Watching Jamuna's story drove home the importance of providing dignified jobs for India's working poor. Supporting Upaya is the most effective way to empower women like Jamuna to create a path out of poverty for entire families."
- Manisha Chainani, Upaya supporter. (Bellevue, WA)
Bangalore, a city of more than 8.4 million residents, produces mountains of garbage. 4,000 tons per day, to be exact. Most is dumped illegally, resulting in serious public health and environmental problems. Moreover, 1.5 million “rag pickers”, primarily women and children, work in horrid conditions sorting recyclable trash for $1 a day.
That’s where Wilma Rodriguez and her team at Saahas come in.
Saahas employs women to safely process 20 tons of Bangalore's municipal waste per day, 90% of which they recycle and compost. Workers are provided with proper safety gear, a salary and benefits. This year, Saahas secured its first investment (thanks to Upaya and the India Angel Network), and now plans to expand to three new cities across South India, where it will scale up to employ 600 women and manage 80 tons of waste daily by 2020.
Despite a promising future, Rodriguez has known struggle and hardship. In 2001, deeply troubled by the garbage crisis, Rodriguez took note of the city’s inability to make headway and thought, “Unless I go ahead and start to do something about it, who will?” But in the early years, Rodriguez faced a lack of funding, an uninformed public, and little traction. “For the first four years there was no salary for me, and there was no team, and there was no office… I was pretty much a lonely person,” Rodriguez recalls. But Saahas means “courage” and it’s doubtless that indeed, her own courage, played a large part in Saahas’s growing success.
Today, Saahas has created more than 150 living-wage jobs, and is putting a revolutionary new face on what environmental stewardship can look like within India’s largest cities.
That’s what courage looks like.
Help us support more courageous entrepreneurs like Wilma. Donate today.