Two Jews, two Palestinians, a Law student and a recent alum sounds more like the makings of a joke than the makings of a non-profit microfinance company.
But gathered in Huntsman Hall last night, the founders of lendforpeace.org were not kidding around as they celebrated the launch of their Web site.
College junior Sam Adelsberg, Wharton sophomore Andrew Dudum, 2007 alumnus David Fraga and third-year Law student Allam Taj, two of whom are Jewish and the other two Palestinian, founded Lend for Peace, a nonprofit microfinance organization in which participants make donations of no less than $25 to micro-entrepreneurs in the Palestinian territories.
Dudum, who said he is deeply tied to his Palestinian heritage, explained that encouraging economic opportunity and confidence will create stability in the region.
"We realize that the economic stability in the West Bank is key to the final end-goal for peace in the region," he said. "By giving these people a chance to feed their children, to keep their job and a chance to have hope, we're trying to lay the basic foundation of a stable economy and a stable region."
He explained that what sets lendforpeace.org apart from other nonprofits is transparency.
"This is a change you can literally follow," he said. "You can go to a site, read the bios of the people and their past successful loans and goals, hear about their kids and husbands and give just $25 to support one woman to help her feed her family. It's a direct connection with the entrepreneur."
Dudum said he hopes that by putting a face to the conflict, investors will stop pointing fingers and connect to those on the ground.
He and Adelsberg began laying the bricks in this foundation shortly after Dudum came to Penn.
Adelsberg went to Israel the summer before his sophomore year, where he learned about the demand for economic development like microfinance, he said.
"I wanted to find out how to tie together people like me to the people on the ground there."
After meeting the first month of school, Fraga and Taj joined took on the legal and financial issues that arose, the group came up with the microfinance platform.
Lend for Peace received funding from the Clinton Global Initiative and the Davis Projects for Peace, according to Dudum.
"We have eaten, drank and slept this organization for a year and a half," said Adelsberg. "The fact that it's finally here is a culmination of our huge efforts."
Although the founders come out on very different sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they unite in their ultimate objective of peace.
"Most people when they relate to the conflict, especially people like us who are so linked to the identities in the conflict, end up coming at it in a polarizing approach," Adelsberg said.
"What we all agree on is that we should take a step back and approach this conflict in a positive way - do something constructive," he continued. "At the end of the day, the part of the Venn diagram where we agree is the part where we're really passionate about."Comments powered by Disqus
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