Thursday, October 22, 2009

Encouraging Small Business Growth in Rwanda

by Heather Smith
Jennifer (Wolff) Jukanovich ’94 fostered such deep lifelong friendships while at Gordon that 15 years after graduation she and six of her Gordon friends still get together annually.

On a recent trip to visit her college roommate from Kenya, Anne Ndunda Mugofwa, Jennifer and her husband, Dano, were presented with an opportunity to move to Rwanda and help aid small to medium business enterprises. “We began to learn a lot about some of the current movements in Rwanda, and we really wanted to be a part of helping this country grow economically,” Jennifer explains. “We believe in using businesses to create jobs, provide people with dignity, create industry sectors, and thus improve the tax base of a country, lifting it out of poverty.” >The Jukanoviches, with the help of another couple, concocted the idea of a business incubator, which later morphed into Karisimbi Business Partners. “Our organization builds businesses by developing the management capacity of promising mid-sized ventures with untapped potential,” says Jennifer. “Our success is found by ensuring a few ventures can employ many, export often, pay taxes, build industry sectors and establish role models for a new generation of Rwandan business leaders.”

But this intensive work cannot be done quickly. Karisimbi Business Partners is committed to building partnerships by working alongside ambitious entrepreneurs for years at a time. Jennifer’s loyalty to friendships and relationships extends far beyond fellow Gordon graduates and roommates to encompass the span of East Africa.

“It was the people at Gordon who really shaped me,” Jennifer says. “Gordon introduced me to thoughtful believers who weren’t content just knowing the four spiritual laws and who did not separate the mind and heart. It was a place where my mind and heart could both grow.” Jennifer’s involvement in leading a children’s ministry in Gloucester, functioning as student body president of GCSA her senior year and convening a forum for college students, Beacon, were just a few outlets for heart and mind growth.

In the years after graduation, Jennifer’s heart for children grew significantly. In addition to helping launch the company, Jennifer also serves on the Board of Children’s Hope Chest, an orphan care organization that works in Russia, Ethiopia, Swaziland, and Uganda. “I truly believe God’s heart is for the orphan, and I want to be about helping them. If we only feed and educate them, but there are no jobs for them in their country, then we will fail them. That is why I get excited about what we’re doing with Karisimbi,” says Jennifer.

In addition to caring for orphans in Uganda, Jennifer also cares for her two daughters adopted from China.

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