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Tulsa native working in Indonesia's slums with Mercy Corps

Indonesia, January 20, 2010

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Daniel Cameron

Greater Tulsa Reporter Newspapers
January, 2010

Libby Putman, who attended Cascia Hall Preparatory School and continued on to Boston College and is currently a candidate for a MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management. As part of her studies at MIT, Libby and three other classmates are in Indonesia for the month of January.

Their assignment: To take a promising Mercy Corps pilot project and figure out how to scale it to help exponentially more poor Indonesians.

The Kebal program works with food vendors in the slums of Jakarta to sell healthier food to children. Most of those children rely on food carts to provide meals and snacks throughout the day, and most of the items are high in sugar and fat and lack the nutrition needed for healthy development.

To improve the health of children (Anemia rates are astonishingly high) as well as provide poor adults a means of income, Mercy Corps began working with four food carts, training and encouraging them to sell nutrition-rich foods such as chicken porridge.

The pilot program has been very successful, but now Mercy Corps faces a huge challenge: How can we expand the program, ensure that cart vendors make a profit, and keep food quality remains high? That’s where Putman and her classmates come in.

Putman will work through January 22nd conducting field assessments and interviews with vendors, customers and Mercy Corps employees to develop a sustainable business plan to take this fledgling program from 4 carts to 100, 500 or even 1,000.

She is excited to start her work, and with her help, Mercy Corps will be able to not only provide more jobs for poor Indonesians but help create healthier eating habits for the children of Jakarta’s slums.

Putman’s first week in Jakarta was a learning experience. She shadowed the cart vendors to understand their daily routine, met with local community and government leaders and other street vendors to better understand the impact that the program is currently having and there the areas are for more impact as the program grows.

She says that she’s impressed with the amount of support the program has already garnered from the community all the way up to the district political leader with only four carts. It excites Putman to imagine what could happen with 1,000 carts!

For more information about the Kebal project you can visit www.mercycorps.org/countries/indonesia