The success stories that emerged from the distribution of equipment following the December 2004 tsunami, to enable communities to resume their vocations, prompted the Foundation to develop its Poverty Alleviation Programme – a long-term, socio-economic relief effort. Central to this scheme is the Small Entrepreneur Programme (SEP), through which deserving individuals are provided with necessary equipment and funding to launch a vocational-based business, or to improve their existing business. The tsunami marginalised many people. In addition to the loss of life, there was also wide-spread loss of livelihoods, with many losing their homes, business premises and the tools of their trade.
SEP helped to re-establish these people in business by identifying those who had the capability, commitment and desire to better themselves and their families, by translating their commitment and dedication into a product or a service. SEP assists beneficiaries such as entrepreneurs who show promise, women disadvantaged as a result of conflict and prisoners released on parole with a grant of up to Rs 50,000 per ‘entrepreneur’ in the form of equipment, but never cash. Thereafter, additional support is granted to those that demonstrate the ability to develop their business further. SEP also includes an apprenticeship programme whereby successful enterprises are monitored on a quarterly basis and required to take on trainees. These trainees, in turn, could qualify for SEP assistance themselves, who in turn take on apprentices in the course of developing their own businesses. The ripple effect therefore is increased sustainably, benefitting the lives of more and more people within the community.
Since its initiation, over 900 people have transformed their lives and the lives of their families with support from the MJF Charitable Foundation. New entrepreneurs that have been helped by the scheme include carpenters, builders, hairdressers, potters, mushroom farmers, beauty therapists, confectioners, textile manufacturers and ayurvedic medical practitioners. To date, the programme has positively touched the lives of over 3,500 people. The SEP has been internationally acclaimed as one of the most effective self-help programmes since it focuses on building on an individual’s talents allowing them to live independent and productive lives.