Within a diverse region of nearly 650 million people, as much as 38 percent of the population in some Southeast Asian nations live below the poverty line, often due to a lack of employment opportunities. More than 90 percent of Southeast Asia’s economic poor are in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.
This is where Jacqueline Klamer ’08 works. It’s where she has been called. “People have God-given talents and capabilities, yet are hindered by circumstances and barriers and not flourishing as God intended,” she said. “It is an incredibly challenging context for entrepreneurs today; they face ethical barriers while seeking to live out their faith in their business and community each day.”
As the Southeast Asia regional facilitator for Partners Worldwide—an organization whose mission is to mobilize networks of entrepreneurs to eliminate world poverty—Klamer has united teams of Christian business professionals and partnering organizations who share a common vision to impact their community at the spiritual, economic, and social level. They work to create jobs and stimulate local economic growth through business training, mentoring, access to capital, and advocacy, as they tackle poverty through sustainable and ethical business solutions.
“Equipping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, leverage resources and innovative solutions, and become leaders who make change in a community, these are the ‘aha’ moments that make this work so exciting,” she said.
As a Calvin student studying English and social sciences, Klamer had a passion to address issues of injustice. After taking an array of classes, she discovered the international development studies program and pursued a second major. “That provided me a way to combine my skill sets and passions.”
Calvin’s international development studies’ semester in Honduras inspired her further. “I observed how people are pursuing dignified change in the real world. This exposed me to the entrepreneurial sector and helped me connect my interest in equipping people to problem-solve and innovate in their own environments,” she said. “Calvin prepared me to take the next step.”
Klamer began working for Partners Worldwide in Haiti a decade ago, immediately after her Calvin graduation. After a year assisting in project management there, she moved back to the U.S., balancing operations and a writing role for the organization as she captured and shared entrepreneurs’ stories from around the world.
During that time, she discovered another gift in herself: strategic management. “There are so many approaches around the world to overcome really similar barriers. The body of Christ is very diverse; I love when I can draw people from different contexts together around a table, help connect the dots, exchange ideas, and align people toward a shared vision and strategy.”
Klamer has been stationed in the Philippines for the last four years, launching Partners Worldwide’s efforts in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Myanmar.
She has also shared some of what she has learned through her experiences as co-author of From Aid to Trade: How Aid Organizations, Businesses and Governments Can Work Together, which offers practical, achievable solutions to help developing countries grow more viable economies.
“As I watched Jackie in a professional context, she grew in confidence, and when I imagine our graduates, Jackie epitomizes for me what our alumni can do upon graduating from Calvin with an international development studies major—she’s joining a wide community in combating poverty and injustice in an empowering way,” said Calvin’s international development studies director Tracy Kuperus. “I’m so encouraged by her work and efforts.”
And Klamer is encouraged by the results she is seeing in the region.
“I am blessed to walk alongside others, helping them become the people God designed them to be,” she said. “Equipping others to become change agents in their own communities is what I learned and have been sent out by Calvin to do.”