Interview: Whole Planet Foundation Director, Joy Stoddard

March 29, 2012 | 6:43 AM

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Joy (left) with Grameen America Borrower Gloria.
Joy Stoddard is Whole Planet Foundation’s Executive Partnership Development and Internal Programs Director. Joy shares her adventures with Whole Planet Foundation, experience with Prof. Muhammad Yunus and vision to empower local communities through Whole Foods Market.

1. When did you join Whole Planet Foundation and what inspired you about its mission?

I joined Whole Foods Market as a team member in 2000, and Whole Planet Foundation in 2006, a few months after the Foundation’s first project in Costa Rica. I came to Whole Foods Market in search of a company whose values are aligned with my own, and couldn’t wait to work for a mission in action like Whole Planet Foundation, the company’s non-profit that funds poverty alleviation around the world by empowering the very poor through microcredit. I believe in selfless service and I love my job! I think I have the best job in the company! I get to be in our stores, meet amazing women all over the world, and create engagement programs for Whole Foods Market shoppers and team members, like our Annual Prosperity Campaign that runs through March 31 and aims to raise $4 million for microcredit.

2. Having traveled the world working with many local communities, can you talk about a specific trip or family you met that still resonates with you?

So many people stand out in my memory, like the grandmother I met in Guatemala who sat with me for an afternoon and shared her weaving skills, the Peruvian clients who were nearly sassy they were so empowered to change their own lives, and of course a Grameen America client Gloria (pictured above) who used her loan to purchase plexiglass and steel to build a exterior mini store front for her flower stand in Queens. Whole Planet Foundation is supporting microlending projects in over 50 countries, and everywhere I travel the clients we support are warm, welcoming, hard-working, innovative, and simply beautiful.

3. Whole Planet Foundation is doing so much more in the U.S. with Grameen America as a partner. What lead to the decision to commit so many resources to domestic micro-lending and why did you choose Grameen America?

Whole Planet Foundation was created to give back to the global communities that supply our stores with products, with a focus on the developing world, but our shoppers and team members want us to help everywhere, so we are! Grameen America is providing banking for the unbanked, and that’s a priority for Whole Planet Foundation. We are thrilled to partner with Grameen America in the States where the majority of Whole Foods Market’s 300+ stores operate.

4. Having met a few Grameen America borrowers, tell us about how microlending is different in the US as opposed to overseas.

The average loan size is much larger in the States, around $2,000 compared to $235 in the projects we support in developing world communities. Loans in Haiti start at $24 and loans in Rwanda $35, but the methodology and the success rate is the same. That’s the important part…that the clients are supported for success and can continually improve their lives through their business.

5. Professor Yunus is on the Whole Planet Foundation Advisory Committee, tell us a bit about your experience working with him as Whole Planet Foundation has grown.

Professor Yunus is an inspiration, and he sees the world much like our Co-CEO John Mackey – they see solutions and want to help make the world a better place. The Grameen methodology developed by Professor Yunus has a proven track record, and it works. I have seen women all over the world flourishing because of this system. Also, I’ve witnessed him interacting with clients in the field and it’s like he’s a member of their family, making an immediate connection and also holding them accountable for their progress. Professor Yunus is a very down-to-earth, genuine person who truly cares and works so hard for the very poor.

6. What is your vision for poverty in 2025?

I’m all for the Professor’s plan to put poverty in a museum! With half the world’s population living on less than $2 a day, it will take all of us working together to achieve this reality.

7. What would be the tweet that sums up your experience in a career as a change maker?

I am living my purpose!

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