Martin Burt founded Fundación Paraguaya in 1985, offering microcredit and entrepreneurship education — a daring enterprise, because Paraguay was still under the rule of a dictator. The foundation’s self-help groups provided real benefits, and Fundación Paraguaya survived to support thousands of small businesses and become a leader in microenterprise development as Paraguay transitioned to democracy. In addition to microlending and Junior Achievement for youth, the organization is developing a self-sustaining, productive agricultural school that offers credit upon graduation to put learning into practice. All of these innovations have had systems-changing influence.
IMPACT AS OF JAN. 2013:
- Fundación Paraguaya’s self-sufficient school model is now being replicated by more than 50 organizations from 27 countries.
- Teach A Man To Fish, its sister organization based in the U.K. disseminating its educational model, now has more than 1,300 members from 105 countries.
- Fundacion Paraguaya’s Microfinance Program is moving away from a traditional “minimalist” lending approach and is developing a “total poverty elimination” approach for all its borrowers, therefore expanding into employment, health, education, housing, water and other similar areas.
- They have demonstrated that it is possible for civil society to get involved in social programs and showed that microfinance was possible. They opened offices in Tanzania in late 2011.
- In addition to his work in civil society, Martin was elected twice as president of the Paraguayan-American Chamber of Commerce, has served as Vice Minister of Commerce, and was elected Mayor of Asunción.
SEE THEIR WORK IN ACTION: