Teaching Kidpreneurship in Manila’s Slums: Stories from BAM Global, Part 4

Corrie Acorda-De Boer (second from right) celebrating a student’s achievement
at one of their schools. (Photo courtesy of Vinnie Petti)

A curriculum for “Kidpreneur” has been developed and launched in the slums of Metro Manila. “We need to create new social movements in order to end poverty,” says Dr. Corrie Acorda-De Boer, cofounder of Mission Ministries Philippines (MMP). Among the poor, this mission has helped start more than one thousand early childhood preschools and programs, as well as holistic-oriented churches. Over time, entrepreneurship has become part of the DNA of this mission; teaching children is a natural next step.

The Kidpreneur principles were first taught in one of the preschools established by Mission Ministries Philippines in partnership with a local Christian academy. The idea of teaching entrepreneurship concepts to four- to six-year-old children was pioneered by professors Rene and Anji Resurreccion, the founders of this particular school. While Rene was pursuing his master’s degree in development studies in the Netherlands, the couple first started toying with the idea. Back in the Philippines, Anji integrated ideas she picked up from the German experiential learning model (called CEFE) for teaching enterprise to children. In the school Rene and Anji established, the children made toys and food “products,” and were encouraged to sell them to friends and family, even as they learned about handling money and the basics of profit, saving, and investing.

“I visited their school together with the director of MMP, Chonabelle Domingo,” shares Corrie. “The kids showed us how much money they had made from organizing a rummage sale, by baking cookies, or by making and selling toys. When we saw the excitement and satisfaction in the children’s eyes as they shared how much money they had saved, we were inspired and we envisioned all our schools to have a Kidpreneur curriculum.” So, together with Anji, MMP developed the curriculum further and introduced it in 2017 to all the preschools with which they currently have partnerships.

Faith-Based Social Movement

It might well become a faith-based social movement in the slums of Manila, as the possibility of tens of thousands of kids begin learning about entrepreneurship and are stimulated to use that gifting, while still attending any of the thousand-plus schools established by Mission Ministries Philippines in cooperation with local churches, NGOs, and seminaries. Generally, twenty to fifty children attend these schools, with some schools having between a hundred to three hundred children after they expanded into elementary and high schools.

Corrie says, “At a young age they learn how to think entrepreneurially and how to make money. Besides the basics of business, we give much attention to biblical character traits and use the stories of famous entrepreneurs who display these traits as examples.” “We base entrepreneurial activities on the belief that God is involved in our spiritual as well as our material lives.”

Although some of the missionaries involved in the schools needed time to adapt to the idea of entrepreneurship, the people living in the slums adapted quickly. “The poor accept and pick it up right away, since it is their day-to-day need,” Corrie explains. “We base entrepreneurial activities on the belief that God is involved in our spiritual as well as our material lives. God created us to be his coworkers; he wants us to steward his creation and desires shalom for families and communities. He wants to elevate us from poverty and desires for us to live in peace, prosperity, and productivity.”

Mission Ministries Philippines

Mission Ministries Philippines was founded in the early eighties with a vision to end poverty. North American Stewart De Boer, Corrie’s husband, was one of the initiators. Corrie, born and raised in the Philippines, was involved from the start and became its first director. They decided to focus on early childhood education, as well as on higher education, to be able to generate transformational leaders. From the beginning, instead of aiming to build a large mission organization, MMP concentrated on catalyzing and growing social movements by using principles of vision casting, collaboration, and partnership, while outsourcing some of the needed work.

Academia

The De Boers and other MMP staff are closely linked with Asian Theological Seminary. Stewart worked at this seminary as academic dean, president, and professor, while Corrie worked closely with students and the faculty for urban transformation. With the staff and the faculty, they developed curriculum to empower high school graduates in the slums—whether they were mothers, single people, or Sunday school teachers—helping them become competent preschool teachers.

Meanwhile MMP received help and inspiration from international universities—such as Azusa Pacific University (APU) and Bakke Graduate University (BGU), both based in the United States—to pioneer and catalyze the master of arts in transformational urban leadership and doctor in ministry in transformational leadership. In the Philippines, Corrie, Dr. Viv Grigg, and Dr. Ray Bakke pioneered these programs along with urban ministry colleagues, while involving other educational institutions in the nation and abroad. MMP still works closely with them and with universities in Asia (such as Bethel Seminary in Hong Kong), as they want to pass on what has been learned in the Philippines and help equip leaders globally to work among the poor.

A Journey from Dependency to Entrepreneurship

When the De Boers noticed that the support for the ministry was slowly dropping due to “donor fatigue,” their interest for entrepreneurship started with a search to become more sustainable as a mission. Late in 2003, Stewart, already in his seventies, enrolled to study social entrepreneurship with the aim to become independent as a mission from foreign funding within seven years.

They looked at different models, and finally chose to produce and publish their own childhood education workbooks and teacher manuals, as this fit best with their mission’s vision, goals, and talents. Later, they started a tour enterprise for foreign students and others interested, offering them a chance to experience life in the slums among the urban poor. The profits kept them in the black, and also helped expand their influence and serve a broader base.

Initially, though, the change in the way of funding did not go easily and smoothly; some of the staff were not trained in business or equipped to handle new tasks such as outsourcing technical and marketing jobs. Some also were uncomfortable becoming involved in business, as they felt it was not the ministry as they were used to, preferring to expect God’s provision through traditional ways. Corrie says, “It meant some mind shifting for some of our staff. We wanted to create a solid biblical foundation; we studied Scripture and were given modules by other theological universities, like the Theology of Work curriculum of Bakke Graduate University. Through research and study, we grew in understanding that God himself is entrepreneurial. We are created in his image, and we wanted to embrace this part of who God is.”

Through choosing the approach of vision casting, collaboration, and partnership, MMP became a catalyst for a grassroots, faithbased social movement in the slums. Now, MMP is increasingly becoming a catalyst for developing social entrepreneurship. Not only children in marginalized situations, but the country as a whole could benefit from education that encourages entrepreneurship. Filipinos are globally known and hired for their service-oriented work, and many have to leave the country because they can’t find a job at home. “Over 2,500 people leave each day to go serve in other nations,” says Corrie. “This is breaking families apart and causing social problems, since many of them have partners and children they leave behind. Within our culture we are not used to considering developing our business potential, but we must start recognizing such talents and encourage children to develop them. Our country has rich resources—like gold, silver, and copper—and we are blessed with fertile land. We need business activities which create jobs, so we don’t have to go work abroad to support our families.”

Social Entrepreneurship in the Slums

MMP is becoming increasingly involved itself in social entrepreneurship activities in the slums. One of the initiatives it started is a manpower agency linking unemployed youth to companies. “We saw the need for jobs,” Corrie explains, “so we started a manpower service for a small fee. For example, a Chinese trader needed people to promote toys in different stores, a construction company needed painters and carpenters, and a restaurant owner chefs and waiters. We know people with potential in the slums and connect them with businesses.”

Meanwhile, MMP also uses this network and influence to stimulate, connect, and facilitate bigger business start-ups, such as a company that makes environmentally friendly briquettes (charcoal), used for cooking. The interest for such endeavors is growing, both locally and internationally. “Recently, I met with Americans who are interested in investing in the slums,” shares Corrie. “They have agricultural enzymes that help bind bricks and briquettes. That’s big; that would be a whole other level of business!”

God Has Also Gifted the Poor

“We know that it is not easy to work with the poorest of the poor,” admits Corrie. “I’m aware of the thought that they ‘always need help,’ and there is some truth to that. We should realize that they live in garbage dumps, are vulnerable and often mentally drained. They are also at the mercy of disasters; whole communities here in the Philippines have been wiped out through floods. Because of such disasters, our mission has lost much of the money we had lent through microfinancing. But through these loans, we have seen people coming out of the garbage dumps. God has also gifted the poor.”

Mission Ministries Philippines has seen results. Partnering with other organizations added to strength and innovation, including the area of entrepreneurship. For example, a sister organization, Companion with the Poor (CWTP), was pioneered by land rights lawyer Dr. Raineer Chu. CWTP has raised teams of entrepreneurial church planters to establish churches among the poorest of the poor, developing curriculum to empower missionaries to be tentmakers. Together with organizations like these, MMP dreams to raise children to become wealth creators, job generators, and foundation leaders.

Although it is challenging for Corrie and her team, they see opportunities come their way for the benefit of vulnerable communities, and they believe that entrepreneurship—Business as Mission—is on God’s heart, both in the Philippines and beyond. Corrie passionately shares her vision: “We have one billion very desperate people in the world. We need to rally businesspeople and help them develop vision and strategy to end poverty. We need to disciple transformational leaders among the poor and the powerful, invest in educating the church, and develop curriculum for seminaries to understand how to transform cities.”

Corrie continues, “We need a new social movement. Let’s teach kids at a young age that business is also God’s mission, that they can be wealth creators and job providers. Business as Mission is on God’s agenda.”

Reprinted from the book BAM Global Movement: Business as Mission Concept & Stories by Gea Gort and Mats Tunehag, with the kind permission of Hendrickson Publishers.

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