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Innovative Social Enterprise: ME to WE Works to End Global Poverty

The for-profit arm ME to WE, an innovative social enterprise, partially funds Free the Children, a well-known international charity re-branded as WE last year. With WE, ME to WE works to end global poverty in a variety of ways.

Brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger started WE more than a decade ago, when Craig was only 12 years old. Their goal was to give people with fewer opportunities and resources the chance to better their lives. That goal is still carried out in the daily workings of the corporation, which donates half of its net profits to WE while reinvesting the other half to grow the enterprise.

WE focuses on five pillars that are important to the advancement of underdeveloped communities: education, water, health, food and opportunity.

In cooperation with the WE Charity, ME to WE works to end global poverty in these three main ways:

1. Volunteering

ME to WE offers volunteer trips to a variety of countries where communities exist in dire need of assistance. They currently serve Kenya, India, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Sierra Leone and rural China.

The WE Charity offers “holistic, sustainable development work” for the volunteers to participate in to help the community.

ME to WE recognizes the importance of volunteer work and how far a single act of kindness can stretch. Its trip website says that after participating in the volunteer trip, “you will take home these lessons, along with an action plan to make a difference.”

Those who volunteer may build houses, install wells or plant community gardens, making a lasting impact on those in need. These projects are designed to help communities develop into sustainable societies.

2. Selling merchandise

Along with offering trips, ME to WE works to end global poverty by selling merchandise that directly benefits poverty-stricken communities.

On the ME to WE Shop web page, there is a description of how a purchase affects a community: “All ME to WE products carry the Track Your Impact promise and create sustainable change around the world in WE villages and here at home through WE school programs.”

Pacsun, a California-based retail clothing brand geared for young people, gives back by selling ME to WE merchandise in stores and online. The brand proudly announced that with any purchase of a ME to WE item, “essential resources are delivered that work to break the cycle of poverty and create real, lasting change.”

3. Educating and giving opportunities

One of the most impactful ways ME to WE works to end global poverty is by empowering communities through problem solving. The WE Charity and ME to WE Foundation “carry the power of WE globally, empowering communities to lift themselves out of poverty.”

In rural Nicaragua, for instance, a group of unemployed and impoverished women struggled to put food on the table. WE stepped in and helped the community build a school and a well. ME and WE, in the meantime, gave the women options for income-earning. The women eventually chose to learn the craft of bracelet-making. ME to WE pays them for the dedication and passion involved in making jewelry, then sells the bracelets in Europe and North America.

For years now, ME to We helps women reward themselves and feed their families. Instead of charity, these passionate females received encouragement and sustainable skills that help them care for themselves and their families. This is just a couple of the many ways ME to WE and its nonprofit arm WE empower communities to support themselves.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr