At age 60, Teré Foster fulfilled her life-long dream to serve a mission to Africa.
“I didn’t know anything about running a nonprofit,” says Foster, a stay-at-home mom and grandmother, “but I knew I wanted to do something exciting with the next chapter of my life.”
“All my life I have been frustrated to watch while the world drastically changed, but when it comes to poverty and inequality, nothing’s changed,” Foster states. We see the same thing go on decade after decade. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
Foster felt “compelled” to start a non-profit since 2010. She was an education major and had dabbled with website development. She put the two skills together to write and build an online course teaching Compassion Leader Training. Her website, ARC7.org, attracted highly educated and gifted leaders in undeveloped communities. She saw the need for a plan that would not create a permanent need for nonprofit intervention, but would instead bring an end to poverty and inequality once and for all in one community at a time.
So far, about 350 gifted university students in Rwanda have completed the training and have set up training centers in their local areas in their native tongue. “The online training program worked as a powerful vetting process,” Foster explained. “Only a very few leaders were able to complete the course because it requires two things that most Rwandans don’t have; they must have a phone and they must speak English.”
The online course is offered at no charge to Rwandans, however it isn’t easy for people in undeveloped countries to do it. First, they need access to the internet, which very few people do in these countries. Second, they need a device that can access the online training. Many of the cheap phones that are offered in these countries have outdated technology like the old flip phones. They don’t have a screen or internet access. Third, they must have a strong grasp of the English language. They must be able to understand the course that is written in college level English or above. Finally, they need an entrepreneurial spirit to become a leader that wants to eradicate poverty in their local areas. When all of these factors in place it is like striking gold. “We found a few leaders in several countries, but by far the greatest concentration of Certified Compassion Leaders are in Rwanda,” says Foster.
“Now that we have graduates in five countries,” explains Teré, “we know for sure that powerful leaders exist in undeveloped communities, and they are looking for an opportunity to do something great. They have the entrepreneurial spirit and are excited about forming lucrative cooperatives like our training teaches them to do. The challenge now is to find the funding to help them get started. I want to pay them to set up training centers so they can teach the local people in their own language the benefits of joining a co-op. Training the first step.”
“I didn’t anticipate so much success so quickly,” says Foster. “Now we have well-equipped leaders that are ready to set up the training centers before we have the funding to help them. I have been sending them my own money to keep them motivated until we find funding.”
Teré has worked on this project for more than 10 years, investing her own time and money without any thought to how she was going to get paid. Knowing that funding is the next step of her journey, Teré has turned her attention to looking for funding sources that are aligned with her vision to eradicate poverty and inequality. She has applied for a USAID grant with the help of Monica Johnston, a statistician who had experience in African missions. The two of them worked on the grant for several months remotely.
The training course that Foster offers seems to get people excited about forming co-op businesses, co-op utilities, and housing co-ops. ARC7 for Global Well-Being wants everyone to imagine a new system that brings equality and financial freedom to all people.
Foster’s vision is to find others like her, at retirement age, who would like to be trained to mentor young people who are going through the training. Mentors partner with their graduates from training to profitability. This means a mentor will adopt a project for three to five years until the development process has taken root and the construction phase has begun. “We didn’t want to load up these cooperatives with debt and we didn’t want investors to come in asking for 51% control and we didn’t want a foundation to control the project, demanding rigorous reporting,” Teré explained. “We just want to allow our leaders to do what they want to do to make their part of the world match the prosperity of the developed world. It’s important that the end result is local prosperity for all, not just a few.”
Angel Retirement Plan
An angel investor provides capital for a start-up, usually in exchange for debt or ownership equity. Foster calls it an “Angel Retirement Plan” because she offers mission opportunities to support start-ups at the initial moments and when most investors are not prepared to back them.
The idea is to empower a team to start a rural cooperative in a low-income community. Through their own cooperative businesses, they will bring prosperity to the community. In exchange for your generous support, the Angel Retirement Plan will offer one of the apartment units built by the ARC7 Rural Cooperative. The plan also offers office space, storefront, or land through the cooperative, to allow for a retirement business of their own. They will have a place to live or vacation for the rest of their lives. It’s the perfect retirement plan for adventurers. They manage your apartment and can rent it as a timeshare for you while you are gone.
“My plan is to open a little restaurant in Rwanda called ‘My Whole Foods Kitchen’ because I have a youtube channel and a cookbook by this name,” Foster states. “Everything I have been teaching in my videos about sustainable living for the last 15 years will be put into practice in Rwanda. I can grow the whole foods that I will use for the restaurant in the co-op gardens nearby.”
Teré Foster sold her house in Columbia, Missouri and invested the proceeds in Rwanda. She offers the same opportunity to other Angel Investors who have always dreams of going on a mission to Africa. She has associates who book travel for missionaries and the teams are ready to “adopt.”
“The best part about it– I have a team of students who call me ‘mom’,” Foster adds.