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Janina Peter: Transforming Global North Donations to Global South Microloans

Janina Peter: Transforming Global North Donations to Global South Microloans

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Janina Peter, the founder and CEO of Bridging Gaps. Let’s learn about what’s happening at Bridging Gaps and how Janina is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Janina, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Bridging Gaps?

Janina: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Our story starts with Malish James, a refugee in Uganda’s Bidibidi Refugee Settlement. In my day job, I work for the UN, through which I connected with Malish. He shared many stories about his life, and one particular challenge stuck with me—while refugees in the community receive food aid from international organizations, they struggle to afford other commodities, such as new clothes for their children. So in many cases, instead of eating the food, they sell it to supply other basic needs. Together with Malish, we created a solution: Many refugees have ideas for starting their own businesses. However, most of them don’t have access to funding. This is where Bridging Gaps comes in. We transform donations from the Global North to community microloans in the Global South, so refugees in Bidibidi can start their own businesses.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Janina: Every time a new business is launched thanks to our work, we empower not just one person, but also their family and community.

Spiffy: What would you say, to further elaborate, is the impact of your work?

Janina: Our work supports vulnerable communities in the Global South. For example, people living in refugee settlements or favelas. We provide entrepreneurship training and community microloans so that they can start their own businesses. Our microloans usually range from €300 to €1000. Once the recipient has saved the amount they received, they pay it forward, and the next community member can start their business. This way, the money creates a ripple effect of projects, and new financial structures.

Spiffy: I love this business model! Can you share a recent organization milestone or initiative, and the impact it makes on your community?

Janina: Our latest milestone is also one of our biggest ones yet. Bridging Gaps is partnering with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Together, we will enable 60 new refugee-led businesses in Uganda. The refugees will receive microloans, intensive entrepreneurship training, and long-term mentorship. Business ideas include solar-powered charging stations for phones, farming and selling vegetables closer to the community, sewing clothes, and more. 

Spiffy: Wow! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Janina: This year, we are launching a new initiative, The Bridging Gaps Fundraising Fellowship. It is a three-month part-time program designed to empower young leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to become effective fundraisers. Have you ever wanted to host a bake sale, organize a donation run, or create an online campaign? Follow Bridging Gaps to stay tuned and apply.

Spiffy: Good luck with the initiative, Janina, and thanks for speaking with me today—it’s been an honor!

Janina Peter is the founder of Bridging Gaps, a non-profit providing microloans for entrepreneurs from the Global South. Janina has worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN World Food Programme, and The Hunger Project, among others. She has consulted with multiple private sector organizations on building sustainability strategies. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 5, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.