We are thrilled to launch our brand new series, Green Queen Giving, where every month we will showcase one of the amazing NGOs or charities that we are proud to list in our Green Queen Guide to Hong Kong. In our inaugural post we talk to Christina Chao, responsible for Development & Marketing at Grameen Foundation’s Hong Kong office.
How was Grameen Foundation started?
Our President and CEO, Alex Counts, founded Grameen Foundation in 1997 to facilitate the expansion of micro-finance based on the Grameen Bank model. He hoped to bring to go beyond the borders of Bangladesh and increase the access of micro-finance to millions of poor people worldwide. As a Fulbright scholar in Bangladesh where he witnessed innovative poverty solutions being developed by Grameen Bank, Alex’s commitment to poverty was cemented. He trained under Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank, and co-recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Since its modest beginnings, sparked by a $6, 000 seed grant provided by Prof. Yunus (who was a founding board member and continues as director emeritus), Grameen Foundation has grown to become a leading international humanitarian organisation.
What is the mission of Grameen Foundation?
Connecting the Poor to Their Potential is our mantra. Our mission is to help the world’s poorest people reach their full potential, connecting their determination and skills with the resources they need. We provide access to essential financial services and information on agriculture and health- assistance that can have wide-scale impact by addressing the specific needs of poor households and communities. We also develop tools to improve the effectiveness of poverty-focused organisations. Our collaborative approach to poverty alleviation recognises the multi-dimensional and complex nature of global poverty. We work with private sector companies, non-governmental organisations and government agencies to ensure that we achieve lasting impact in the regions where we work.
What is Grameen Foundation’s geographical focus?
We are headquartered in Washington, D.C. and we have offices in Seattle, Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Ghana), Latin America (Colombia), and Asia (Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia). We also work in the Middle East through Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Limited, a joint venture, and in India through Grameen Foundation India, a wholly-owned subsidiary.
What are Grameen Foundation’s goals for Hong Kong specifically?
Being a global financial centre, Hong Kong serves as our hub for Asia. Most of our corporate, volunteer, and philanthropic partners are based here so we need to be close to connect with them on a regular basis, though we travel a lot! We are also trying to strengthen local Asian philanthropic, impact investing and social entrepreneurship communities. Both Hong Kong and Singapore have strong networks for this, so we try to participate and share our experiences in effective programs as much as possible.
How can Hong Kongers get involved with Grameen Foundation?
In addition to philanthropic support for Grameen Foundation, connections to telecommunications, financial institutions, healthcare providers, agriculture corporations, or really any company trying to reach the bottom of the pyramid in the Asia region would be helpful.
We are also always looking for volunteers. We have a unique skills-based volunteer program, Bankers Without Borders, through which we’ve built an efficient, operational framework to mobilize, engage and leverage the talent and skills of the private sector to help support the missions of other poverty-focused social enterprises. We partner with Fortune 500 companies and individuals to source some of the world’s top talent and brightest minds and we strategically connect our volunteers with high-potential social enterprises and non-profits fighting global poverty to improve their scale, sustainability, and impact. Our talented pool of volunteers – who donate their time pro bono – enables us to provide top-notch consulting, coaching, and training services at a fraction of the market price.
What are some of your favourite charities, other than Grameen Foundation of course?
Here in Hong Kong, we really respect what Asian Charity Services is trying to do to strengthen the local NGO sector, particularly their Ignite Seminar Series. We share an office space with and greatly admire the mission of Kids4Kids. In Hong Kong, where grades and scholarship are stressed at such a young age, kids often forget to be kids and the importance of giving back. Kids4Kids helps promote youth leadership and development, and childhood creativity through an annual writing/illustration competition. They also have amazing student-led buddy reading and arts & music programs.
All photos courtesy of Grameen Foundation.