In a topsy‑turvy world of investments gone bad, disappointing returns, missed quarterly projections, and assets not worth the paper they are written on, how can we speak of Dividends of Hope? It is easy to become frustrated when hard work and careful saving does not yield the kind of future we envisioned. But most of us remain confident that in the long run those investments will recover.
For millions of poor families around the world, however, there are no retirement funds, stock portfolios, or even bank accounts. There is only the daily grind of finding enough food, water and fuel to provide the basics. Earnings from small businesses and farms are often inadequate to afford education for their children, decent housing to protect from the elements, or health care for the sick and elderly. Where then is their hope?
At MEDA we believe that investing in the poor is our God‑given mandate and a proven strategy for creating sustainable livelihoods. "God puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned‑out lives with fresh hope, restoring dignity and respect to their lives – a place in the sun!" (1 Samuel 2: 8 MSG). We believe people in business are called to serve God with their unique gifts. When we take a risk with the poor and apply business principles to create sustainable livelihoods, hope is clearly the dividend – hope for economic security, hope for a better future, hope for peace and prosperity.
This year MEDA's work extended dividends of hope to more than 2.6 million families in 44 countries, in partnership with 139 locally owned and managed organizations. Families from Afghanistan to Zambia benefited from increased incomes, new skills and better health – new hope!
God also calls us to invest in the things that are important. "Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns" (Ecclesiastes 11:1 MSG). We were delighted that, despite turbulent markets, 2008 was a year of continued growth for MEDA. Contributions from our 2,900 members and 2,000 supporters reached a new record of $2.9 million, up 12% from last year. We were able to leverage those contributions with government contracts and other funding by a factor of more than five to one, for total revenue of $18.5 million, up 15% from last year.
Equally important, assets in the Sarona Risk Capital Fund increased 34% to $10.7 million, members' direct investment in MEDA programs increased 20% to $15 million, and assets under management increased 36% to $132 million. Our net surplus of $1.8 million, resulting largely from appreciation in the value of our Sarona Risk Capital Fund investments and generous contributions, gives us hope that the poor are indeed investible. Most of these funds will be reinvested again and again in businesses that serve the poor.
This year we also began what we hope will become a more global outreach to supporters, investors and government donors. Titus Horsch was hired as our MEDA representative for Europe, based in Germany and charged with expanding our visibility there and throughout Europe.
We are immensely grateful to our members and our board who generously share their time, skills and resources to help MEDA create Dividends of Hope. We invite you to join in this work.
Allan Sauder, President
Mel Stjernholm, Chair