“When you can empower someone to do good through the basic human desire to explore, it’s a very exciting thing,” says two-time Kiva Fellow Chris Baker. Now founder of development-minded tourism company OneSeed Expeditions, Chris says his work is all about “exploring the world and investing in the people you meet” -- an idea that grew out of his experience as a Kiva Fellow.
There’s no such thing as a “typical” Kiva Fellow, but two traits tend to emerge: a passion for travel and an open heart. Chris embodies both -- so much so that when a mixup had him thinking he was headed to Afghanistan instead of Nepal for his fellowship, he didn’t miss a beat.
“I was pretty surprised, but absolutely game,” Chris says. “It would have been a very interesting summer.” There’s no better illustration of Kiva Fellows’ ability to make the most of every situation and working through challenges for the sake of sustainable impact.
But even Chris couldn’t have expected his life to be so transformed by his travels. During his fellowships in Nepal, working closely with Patan Business and Professional Women (BPW), he had the opportunity to meet many small-scale entrepreneurs and watch Kiva borrowers who were “completely upending constraints on opportunity,” he says. Thoroughly inspired, Chris decided to launch his own company that would make his experience with travel and microfinance accessible to more people.
“When it came time to structure OneSeed and our mission, it was my experience that confirmed for me that microfinance is the most efficient means of leveraging capital into impact,” Chris says.
An avid outdoorsman, Chris identified a sustainable and growing revenue stream in adventure travel in Nepal. To connect this to microfinance, he came up with the idea for a tourism service that allows travelers to invest 10% of the cost of their trips in businesses run by local women entrepreneurs.
“You take a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and a local entrepreneur is able to launch or expand her small business,” Chris says. Combining his enthusiasm for traveling and the power of microcredit, OneSeed is an innovative twist on Kiva’s mission to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.
Chris’ cultural sensitivity is manifest in OneSeed’s outline for its commitment to sustainability, which lists specific policies, goals and targets for minimizing carbon emissions in the workplace and while traveling; reducing waste and water consumption; establishing a green purchasing policy and ensuring that the local community benefits from their business. By prioritizing employment of local residents and providing employees with shares of the company, OneSeed is working within the existing ecosystem to become a catalyst for positive change through lending, awareness, support and respect.
OneSeed is gearing up to take its first expedition in Nepal in February. Find out more about the company and upcoming adventures at www.oneseedexpeditions.com.
Chris is just one of many Kiva Fellows who have dedicated themselves to making the world a better place following their experience in the field. Right now, Kiva is getting ready to send its 17th fellow class around the world to strengthen ties to its field partners. The deadline for applications for the 18th fellows class is coming up fast on February 12. Click here to learn more and apply!
Photos courtesy of OneSeed Expeditions