As a manager for a human resources company that staffs offshore drilling stations, Emmanuel Mbeleg listened to workers complain daily about their working conditions. Salaries were too low to make ends meet or save for large purchases like cars or medical bills. The remote nature of the work meant workers’ families were often left alone for long periods of time without access to critical services and supports. Spouses also struggled to find their own source of income due to Cameroon’s high rates of unemployment.
Emmanuel believed his company, Jess Assistance Cameroon, could do more to live up to its motto, “developing a worker is developing the enterprise,” but wasn’t sure where to start.
“I knew we had to go beyond profits and put people at the center of our approach,” Emmanuel said of his vision for the company. “That means helping our workers, helping their children and helping their spouses.”
Emmanuel enrolled and completed all seven Philanthropy University courses this past December. His classes in fundraising, social impact, and organizational capacity helped him design and implement a new strategy for Jess Assistance—an employee loan program run in collaboration with Jess Assistance and local Cameroonian banks. Loans, guaranteed by the company, are now provided to individuals and families for children’s school tuition, medical services and prescriptions for spouses, and big-ticket items like cars or start-up capital to run a small business.
More than 200 loans have already been granted with impact reaching at least 500 people, Emmanuel estimates. A wife of one employee who received a medical loan to pay for her husband’s treatment told Emmanuel she doesn’t know what she would have done without the loan. It’s even helped his own family too: a loan recently paid for much-needed eyeglasses for his wife and car repairs for their family car.
“We’ve helped drive our workers out of fear and dependence,” said Emmanuel, who is now considering a career shift into the nonprofit sector. “I hope to keep bringing changes that are going to impact our employees, their families, and my own family. Their satisfaction will be mine too.”