“Tourism has been described as the world’s largest transfer of resources from rich to poor, dwarfing international aid,”
Onwards was born in 2012 when founder Jacob Taddy recognized a need to shift how he, and others, were talking about and providing domestic and international aid. Onwards seeks to shift from short-term solutions and volunteer projects to long term, sustainable economic development. By providing small loans and training to local tourism based business owners, Onwards empowers individuals to tap into the largest industry on the planet, tourism, to create jobs and alleviate poverty.
Inspiration in Rio Limpio
Rio Limpio, a small, agriculture based, off the grid town, in the mountains of the Dominican Republic was a key inspiration for Onwards. Rio Limpio has been home to a vast array of international community development projects, both successes and failures. It is home to the DR’s first organic agriculture school (CREAR), has solar panels riddled across the roofs of the cinder block homes, and has a regular Peace Corps presence.
The mountainside towering over Rio Limpio was declared national forest. Farmers, whom had deforested much of the mountainside and had been working the land for generations, were told to relocate. In the early 2000s, Rio Limpio secured international and government grant-funding for a large scale greenhouse project to relocate farmers off of the mountain, and into greenhouses (read more about this project in our blog post).
These projects created an influx of people visiting and working in this small rural town. Workers came to reforest the mountain, construct the greenhouses, and to observe the projects. As a result, this influx of visitors needed places to stay, eat, and the community cooperative hotel and restaurant flourished. Local youth formed guided hikes and horseback tours, the restaurant purchased more food from local farmers, and people were simply spending more money in Rio Limpio. The benefits of buying local were and are even more powerful in an isolated community like Rio Limpio. The town flourished as a result.
These visitors demonstrated the positive effects of community-based tourism and led to a fundamental tenant of Onwards: that often the best way you can ‘help’ is to spend your money in a way that supports a sustainable job for a local person.
While the tourism industry often supports foreign owned establishments, concentrates wealth, and does not contribute to overall economic development of a local population, Rio Limpio is an alternative model for the positive impact your travels can have.
As Jacob sought to replicate this model, he saw the primary barrier to a flourishing business in destinations like Rio Limpio was the difficulty to grow a business, create a tourism-based business that meets traveler’s basic expectations, and to market themselves. After spending much of his non-profit management degree studying microfinance at UW Madison and participating in a service learning program in the Dominican Republic, Jacob was inspired by the power and potential of microfinance to solve these problems.
Muhammad Yunis and the Grahmeen Bank popularized modern day micro-finance. The Grahmeen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for its ability to empower the poor by providing impoverished individuals, without access to traditional credit, loans and training to start or expand a business. In an era where international aid has become a norm, Yunis, and an increasing majority of international aid professionals, have criticized handouts, help, and a lack of economic development in poverty alleviation.
Rather, providing financial services at affordable rates, basic business training, and the opportunity and encouragement to start or grow a business, creates sustainable growth and change for generations.
Onwards was born as an answer to these problems; a way to empower individuals, connect people, and transform travel. We believe in the entrepreneur, in empowerment verses handouts. We believe that travel is powerful, and engaging in new experiences and new cultures plays a key role in being a global citizen. And, we believe you and we can make a difference.
Meet Our Team
Jacob developed his passion for international aid and the non profit sector growing up and serving with a missions organization. Working in the Navajo Nation, Skid Row in Los Angeles, and service trips throughout the US and the Caribbean, have shaped much of who he is today. Jacob studied non profit management at UW Madison, has held jobs in fundraising, music, and most recently youth leadership development and outdoor adventure in Colorado. Jacob is now working on Onwards full time.
Stacey discovered her passion for travel and adventure in college while studying abroad in Costa Rica and Spain. Shortly after receiving a Master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies from University of San Diego, Stacey joined the Peace Corps. She served for two years as a Community Economic Development Advisor in Rio Limpio, an isolated agricultural community in the mountains of the Dominican Republic, near the border with Haiti. She currently resides in Santo Domingo, and works as the In-Country Director for Courts for Kids.
We are committed to remaining mission true. That means being evaluative and responsive to current research, critique, and growth. Check out some of the resources that have impacted who Onwards is today.