giving back

Rachel von Niederhausern: Social Entrepreneur and Global Neighbor

giving backmoms making a difference

There is a book called Banker to the Poor, by Muhammad Yunus, that tells of how he established a bank that won the Nobel Prize for Peace by eradicating poverty. Back in 1976, he loaned $27 of his own money to 42 people in a tiny village in Bangladesh, and from those micro-loans, several micro-entrepreneurs were born. They were able to break the cycle of poverty in which they had been stuck, and out of that success was born Grameen, a bank that has provided six billion dollars in loans to seven million families in rural Bangladesh. It was in reading this book that a Utah mother named Rachel von Niederhausern realized that she was a social entrepreneur, someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to achieve a desired social change. As such, she helped form three unique nonprofits—Global Neighbor, Singular Humanitarian Experience, and Family Humanitarian Experience—to address world problems that she felt compelled to do something about.

Rachel and husband Steve

But finding a name for the type of compulsion she felt was only one step in a process that had actually began a few years ago, when her brother gave her, as a gift, the paperwork he'd completed to start a nonprofit called Global Neighbor. It was something they'd always wanted to do, though they didn't know much about how to do it. Soon after that, they started another one called Singular Humanitarian Experience (SHe), which provided expedition opportunities to single members of the Mormon church. As part of her work with these organizations, she went on an expedition to Guatemala to help with a women's microcredit project. The next year, she returned and taught a workshop for mothers on budgeting and saving. As she has returned on various expeditions since then, she has seen how the knowledge those mothers gained had improved not only their own lives, but their families' as well.

"It was one of the happiest times in my life," she says, to be involved in helping those women. The only thing that was missing was the involvement of her own family, which by then meant her husband and four young children. So she and her brother again formed a sister organization, Family Humanitarian Experience (FHe), for families of the same denomination. "I think it's second nature for us as women and mothers to help others," says Rachel. "There are so many ways we can help, even in our own communities, and so many ways we can involve our children, even if they're young." Though her oldest two children will just be old enough to go on an expedition next year, she makes giving a part of their daily lives by asking everyone at the dinner table if they were able to do something nice for someone else that day. She also gives rides to friends whenever possible.

"My children anchor me to what's most important. What I do for others is only an extension of what I do for them." She is much like Shayne Moore, who we talked with last year and who is also passionate about our duty and ability to help others around the world. For Rachel von Niederhausern, social entrepreneur and mother, helping others has been a compulsion, a journey, a social venture, and a family experience—in other words, a way of life.

 What do you do to serve other on a daily basis? How do you encourage your children to serve others?

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