SALT LAKE CITY — Last January, "American Idol" superstar David Archuleta and his mother, Lupe, went to her native Honduras and to Guatemala, hosted by Utah-based Mentors International. There, they say firsthand how the organization helps provide loans and training to help families in home-based businesses work their way out of poverty.
On Friday night, mother and son gave to the effort themselves by providing a free performance at Mentors' Annual Gala fundraiser at the Salt Lake Marriott, before a crowd of several hundred donors and potential donors.
It was the organization's 20th anniversary, and the two Archuletas were up for the occasion in a performance that featured fast-paced Latin music and heartfelt ballads evoking the optimism that drives Mentors.
"We were really thankful to be able to go and see the work that's being done for the people down there, and families prosper and come from low places and reach their goals and see their dreams come true," David said.
Accompanying himself on electronic keyboard, the 19-year-old singer opened the performance with "Angels," a song from the 2007 season of American Idol. To recorded accompaniment, he followed with "Things Are Going to Get Better," which he debuted last month on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day MDA telethon.
Then, it was time for his mom to take the stage, exhibiting substantial talent of her own with two Spanish-language selections, one sung in moving tribute to her father, who was in the audience. The other was the up-tempo "Mi Tierra" (my land) which she sang in honor of her homeland, Honduras.
"I don't know how to thank Mentors for this trip," the tearful mother said. "I'm never going to forget it, because this is my people, and I love my people. For this reason, we are here to share our love."
David also sang a Spanish number, "Contigo En La Distancia" (you in the distance), and mother and son closed the set with a duet on "A Puro Dolor" ("the purest of pain").
Receiving Mentors' International Humanitarian Award was microfinance pioneer Joe Hatch, the founder of Foundation for International Community Assistance, one of the worlds' leading microcredit institutions. He is co-founder and executive committee member of the Microcredit Summit global campaign.
Hatch spoke of his dream that world poverty be eradicated by 2025 through such initiatives as village banks, his brainchild.
Originally called Enterprise Mentors International, the organization was formed in 1990. Menlo Smith, an LDS mission president from St. Louis, Mo., serving in the Philippines, had observed widespread poverty in that nation among families trying to operate businesses at the mercy of loan sharks.
Upon returning home, Smith and other Mormon businessmen, with encouragement from the church and technical expertise from Brigham Young University business professor Warner P. Woodworth, developed a self-help program with a partner organization in the Philippines offering micro-enterprise training, mentoring and micro-credit.
Two decades later, the organization, which has since moved its headquarters from St. Louis to Draper, Utah, works with partner foundations in the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru. Through Mentors' influence, some 2 million people have been lifted from poverty.
One of the Mentors clients visited last January by David and Lupe Archuleta was Imelda Sanum Zil in the area of Patzicia, Guateamala. Mentors president Mark L. Petersen said she and her husband Odgas had been struggling to survive. In 2005, the began a business making wooden crates for the shipping of produce.
But working with one power saw and small shipments of scrap lumber, they could make just 25 boxes per day, which did not bring enough profit to raise them from poverty
In August 2007, she learned of the services provided by Mentors Guatemala. She secured a loan for $150, purchased two additional table saws and hired seven employees. The business eventually grew to a production of more than 350 boxes a day, bringing boosting the family income from $125 to $1,250 a month.
Speaking of the January visit, Petersen said, "She had been quick to implement our suggestions and had opened an additional operation a few miles down the road. Five more full-time employees were hired, and Imelda has increased her net income again, now to $1,800 per month."
The family's standard of living is now far above the national poverty line, and the business has improved the living standard for 12 other families, Petersen said. "She is a prime example of how micro-credit can create a more formal economy in a developing country."
He noted that Mentors sees a 96 percent repayment rate of the loans extended to the working poor in the countries served.
Petersen said the annual gala is "to give as many individuals as possible the opportunity to assist us in teaching, mentoring and providing financial services as we lift the poor from poverty with a hand up, not a hand out" and to raise awareness in the United States of effective and responsible ways to solve world poverty.
Speaking to the audience, Petersen said, "You can feed a child here or feed a child there, but when you teach parents how to provide for their families, it solves every other problem."
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