#Impactmaker: Hilde Bleijswijk ‘Namasté Foundation’
Text by: Nadine Maarhuis | 3-5 min
Growing up in the smallest house of an even smaller town, Hilde Bleijswijk decided that once she grew up, she was going to show everyone around her how life really should be lived. And so she did. Up until a few years ago, Hilde was a tax lawyer and able to live in the house she had always dreamt of living in and drive the car she had only fantasised of driving. After a life changing event in her family, Hilde decided to follow in the footsteps of the one she loved so much. In 2008, she quit her job, packed her backpack and got on a plane to Asia.
While travelling through Nepal, Hilde started thinking about becoming a social entrepreneur. Supported by family and friends, she was able to launch a project to address the poverty and gender inequality she was witnessing around her. By giving out micro-loans to deprived women, Hilde gave them the opportunity to improve their situation all by themselves. In the initial stage of the project, Hilde enabled 6 women to become the proud owners of a goat, a buffalo and a sewing machine, which allowed them to start their own little venture.
Gender inequality & poverty
In 2009, as a result of her success, Hilde decided to transform the project into the Namasté Foundation. Over the years, Hilde and her team of over 70 employees and volunteers have made a huge positive impact on the Nepalese society. Every year, the foundation empowers over 50 women and their families. Hilde proudly speaks about Guita, a woman who made the most out of the opportunity she was given by the Namasté Foundation: ‘’After Guita’s husband had died in a motorcycle accident, she had to take care of their two boys all by herself. With the micro-loan, Guita was able to start her own shop and rent a real home for her and her children.’’. In addition to the micro-loans, the Namasté Foundation opened its doors to a “women empowerment centre”, where the Nepalese women can participate in a variety of trainings: from sewing to motivational classes, it’s all there.
Empowerment & growth
Over the next few years, Hilde wants to transform the Namasté Foundation into a self-sustainable enterprise. She also looks to expand their projects to the regions that have been effected most by the recent earthquakes: ‘’Because the women in these areas have practically lost everything, we will try our hardest to give them every opportunity to get back in the driver’s seat of their own lives.’’.
How Impact Hub
Enabled Namasté Foundation to:
- Being part of the Impact Hub community and working in a breeding place of social change gave Hilde a lot of power and energy to keep moving forward.
Connected Namasté Foundation to:
- Inspiring people from a whole range of different fields of expertise
- Helpful, skilled people: Hilde tells how the video on their homepage is made by another Impact Hub member who is a documentary maker and visited their projects in Nepal.
Inspired Namasté Foundation to:
- Hilde still remembers her first reaction to the place: she remembers walking through the door and she was thinking wow it would be so great to work in a place like this. The whole environment was just extremely inspiring to her. She says: ‘’I am not even sure that the Namasté Foundation would be here without Impact Hub, it’s so important to have an inspiring working environment. All the people are working from the same perspective, it feels like a big family.’’
Namasté Foundation & UN Global Goals
Namasté Foundation actively works to contribute on the achievement of Global Goal #1: ‘Poverty’ and Global Goal #5: ‘Gender Equality’. For more information on the UNDP Global Goals see here.