'Walking the talk'
on combating poverty

Growing up, Leadership Network member Johanna Peek always believed working hard was the key to success.
Johanna Peek image at the beach

Johanna: “I had a real fire in my belly that I had to do something about it.”

But the more she travelled, the more she realised that wasn’t always the case.

While working for an NGO in India, Johanna met 19-year-old Artie, who was born with dodgy hips.

Artie’s family couldn’t muster the $NZ500 needed to perform a simple operation to correct the problem, leaving her disabled from the waist down. The disability meant Artie couldn’t walk the one kilometre to her local school.

“I met so many people on my travels that had worked so much harder than me but actually had such little opportunity,” says Johanna.

“I had a real fire in my belly that I had to do something about it.”

Johanna decided to drop off the corporate career ladder – most recently she’d been working for Unilever in London, marketing fabric conditioner to South East Asian housewives.

“I said to myself, I’m not going to do anything with my skills and my resources apart from something that would make a positive impact on someone’s life.”

And freshly-launched Kiwi charity Just Peoples is Johanna walking the talk.

She’s joined forces with fellow Leadership Network member Christey West, who’s been based in Southeast Asia for the past decade working to combat human trafficking, to create Just Peoples – a peer-to-peer fundraising site for developing causes close to their hearts.

They’re leveraging the power of the internet to help alleviate poverty, they explain.

Just Peoples connects those in need in the developing world with those willing to help from across the world – think Givealittle with a global focus.

They’ve set up a website telling the stories of people who’ve been dealt a rough hand; who have ideas about how they can help themselves but need some cash to put their plans into action.

“Inspired Kiwi fundraisers then take ownership for raising the funds required to implement these solutions,” explains Johanna.

“You have a fundraising page within our website, which you send out to family and friends.”

The pair have completed a trial phase of the concept, using their own networks as guinea-pig fundraisers, and they've been overwhelmed by its success and people’s enthusiasm to be involved.

“Together, we have significantly changed the lives of 260 people in the last year through education, empowerment courses, vocational training, family planning and maternal health care.”

Crowdfunding isn’t a new idea, but they reckon pairing fundraisers up with one project, which is seen through to completion, is unique.

“Fundraisers and their donors receive personalised feedback from the people whose lives they have chosen to change.”

They’re hopeful the good work will continue, and on a larger scale.

“We expand organically as fundraisers share our platform with their networks...It inspires others to take on their own fundraising projects.”

And every fundraising dollar goes to the chosen project, says Johanna. “It’s really important to us.”

Christey West at the Rethinking Leadership Hui

Christey West speaking at the Leadership Network's Rethinking Leadership Hui

The pair have put in hundreds of volunteer hours to get the charity up and running, along with a growing support crew of motivated helpers.

Next on their agenda is establishing a “Founding 50” – a group of 50 people who believe in their vision of a world where everyone has the means to free themselves from poverty.

They’re asking the Founding 50 to donate $20 per month for the next year.

“The money raised will enable us to cover costs such as vetting new partners and recruiting new fundraisers, so that we can scale up our organisation and hit our target of changing 10,000 lives by 2020.”

By Leadership Network member Kim Bowden