The SMUMC Foundation has invested in international grant making opportunities since its inception in 2001. The decision by the original board of directors was based on two key understandings. First and foremost, investing in international ministries is in direct alignment with the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ to “…be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (* Acts 1:8). This commitment is captured in the SMUMCF mission statement to be “…a lasting, effective and compassionate charitable resource for agencies in Southeast Georgia, the nation and the world …..” And secondly, investing in international ministries has long been a tradition of the St. Marys UMC as evidenced by a history of direct donations to various missions and missionaries and indirect donations through annual apportionments to the South Georgia Annual Conference of the UMC.
2001 – 2016: In the early years, the Foundation invested in a variety of Christian-based international opportunities in a multitude of locations. During 2004 - 2010, the Foundation collaborated with Church World Service working in East Africa to improve the conditions of vulnerable children whose lives had been impacted by HIV/AIDS, war and famine. In 2011, the Foundation joined Church World Service, MAP International and ECHO to create the TOGETHER Coalition, a 5-year initiative to build community resilience among the Karamojong peoples of Northern Uganda. Although the geography varied as did the people and their situations, the common theme in all cases was extreme poverty
2017 – 2020: Partner’s Worldwide (www.partnersworldwide.org) – A $200,000 per year investment for 6 years with Partners Worldwide to leverage entrepreneurs and job-creators to achieve increased sustainability and resilience for vulnerable people in Ghana, West Africa. Partners Worldwide began with a simple question: “Is there a way for businesspeople to become part of the solution to ending poverty, instead of being seen as part of the problem?” In 1994, Partners for Christian Development, now Partners Worldwide, was formed when Kenyan and American businesspeople met to establish a loan fund for small to medium enterprises (SMEs), a business savings and loan cooperative, and partnerships between entrepreneurs. Partners for Christian Development grew out of World Renew (then Christian Reformed World Relief Committee). In 2005, responding to the increasing need to engage business people and professionals, Partners Worldwide was established as an independent faith-based business ministry, though it continues to partner with the Christian Reformed Church.
Partner’s Worldwide is currently working with 78 local partners called Local Community Institutions (LCI), in 27 countries implementing strategies to end poverty through business training, mentoring, access to capital and advocacy. Over the next 4 years, the SMUMC Foundation will be investing $200,000 per year with Hopeline Institute (www.partnersworldwide.org/lci/hopeline-institute) in Ghana, West Africa. Hopeline has been a very successful Partners Worldwide LCI partner since 2010 and is well positioned for significant expansion in the coming years.
Grant funds will be used to increase Hopeline Institute’s capacity to provide micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) business loans, training, mentoring and advocacy-support in the four sectors targeted and covered by the LCI: Agriculture, Manufacturing, Retail, and Service. A portion of the funds will be dedicated to an increased focus on long-term impacts through building inclusive agricultural value chains, which play an important role in ending poverty by linking small-scale, rural, and often marginalized farmers to viable markets.
The goal of this initiative is to increase Hopeline Institute’s impacts on job creation and poverty alleviation by 40 percent in the four-year period (averaging 10 percent annually). Over the four years, Hopeline Institute projects to create and sustain over 16,000 jobs. That equates to over 16,000 families with sustainable incomes to feed their children, pay school, health fees, etc. With each job supporting on average 5 dependents, that means over 80,000 lives touched in communities of poverty and unemployment.