Pepperdine has a strong focus on service and we were encouraged to volunteer in a small rural village on the outskirts of Buenos Aires called Adulam. This village is home to a group of Argentine orphans, single women and several families who live and work together as a close-knit community. Their warmth and kindness was inspiring and when one of the young girls asked us not to “forget them” we knew we would be back.
Rob Stone, who majored in International Studies, started exploring various ways to help the people from Adulam. After reading the book “Banker to the Poor,” by Muhammad Yunus and meeting with him in person, he partnered with David Tari to put their ideas to action. When meeting with leaders such as John Hatch from FINCA and Yunus from Grameen, we asked how we could become more involved in micro-lending. They both echoed each other by saying “Go do it!” So we decided to go back to Argentina and do just that.
Since most people in rural areas in the country have little access to credit, deemed too high risk for conventional lenders, they are unable to buy the raw materials necessary for starting their small business ventures. With this simple knowledge we realized micro-credit would be a powerful tool for helping our friends in Adulam and Argentina.
We started raising money by holding campus events, touring other Universities and speaking to everyone we could about our vision. The following summer we had raised enough to lend out our first micro-loans. The initial loans were given out the summer of 2008 to 20 villagers with an average loan ranging anywhere from $100-$275. We were able to meet and interview with each entrepreneur while arranging for the Pastor of the village (Omar Gaitan), to implement and oversee the nascent project.
Attracted to our mission, Dillon Desai and Kelly Stone joined the team to help host more campus events. At these events, we sold our custom One for One water bottles (One bottle of water for One borrower) and handicrafts, including custom-made maté gourds and bracelets. All funds were channeled back into the villages to be given to more borrowers. We began to understand the importance of providing a market for their products in addition to the credit we were making available.
While another one of our team members, Rachel Williams was living in Adulam, she realized the distance that the children were traveling in order to go to a school that was poorly run.
This led to the idea for a Schoolhouse: our access to education would help us give others access to education. Knowing how crucial education is in the process of poverty reduction, the One for One team started raising money to build Adulam a school where the children could learn in a safe environment and where the micro-entrepreneurs could have on-going business support. Winter of 2010 we were back in Argentina building the school.
Prior to this time, we had been introduced to film producer and Pepperdine professor, Tom Shadyac. He would become one of One for One’s most influential partners. Tom had always inspired and challenged us to pursue an "others-centered" path, so when we told Tom about our vision and our goals for One for One, he immediately became engaged in the project and offered his support and mentorship, making our rapid progress possible.
Through the process of initially trying to help a few entrepreneurs we began to develop a proven and effective methodology. Through trial and error, we were able to formulate a model that we believe can be repeated and reproduced in village after village.
1. Micro-Finance (Village and Individual lending)
2. Education (Business Center and Schoolhouse)
3. Hosting groups and volunteers (Promoting hands-on participation)
4. Providing a market for products made with the help of our loans
“We consider our village building projects a perfect exchange and that through a greater service
between the American Countries (U.S.A, Central America, South America, The Caribbean Islands) we can
begin to tackle both the micro and macro problems in the region, subsequently leading to greater unity,
peace, and prosperity in the hemisphere. What we lack, they have, and what they lack we have, with regards
to the North American need for greater community and to the Latin American need for simple subsistence
to pull its 182 million citizens out of poverty.“ - Rob Stone, Founder