Interview with Tobias

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People who have to live in and from garbage – At the age of 18, after graduating from high school, Tobias spent two years with an aid organization in Southeast Asia. In the slums of Manila and Olongapo, he had his first contact with extreme poverty: people who fought over the garbage of fast-food restaurants and who, in their desperation, even sold their own children to feed the rest of the family. He met people who had ideas and the will to improve their situation, but their poverty prevented them from putting these ideas into practice.   

Inspired by his experiences and deeply touched by the catastrophic living conditions Tobias Schüßler founded a non-profit association together with Silvia Schüßler and Marion Schwierz in September 2014, which until today gave more than 900 people in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia the chance for a better and self-determined life: Global Micro Initiative e.V. (GMI). The common heart’s desire is to volunteer for people in need in Southeast Asia and enable them to live above the poverty line. Above all, it was important to Tobias to find ways to help people – without them being dependent on the help of others. After some research he came across the concept of microcredits. Tobias developed his own microcredit program motivatedly, which combines small loans with training and advice for the participants. The aim is to improve the situation of people in the long term and help them to build a better future for themselves. Tobias received support from both, his student and family environment. Tobias places great emphasis from the very beginning on transparency and traceability regarding the use of the donations towards our great donors, and also in his dealings with the volunteer members and partners, he attaches great importance to open and respectful communication and much appreciation for their work and commitment.   

Today – 6 years after the foundation of GMI – Tobias is 27 years old and in addition to his social commitment, he works as an IT consultant. At GMI, he is responsible for partner organizations, projects and the supervision of volunteers. In his private life, the oldest of three children lives in Sulzbach im Taunus and seeks physical balance, especially in sporting activities.  When he is not visiting our participants or taking care of new projects, Schüßler likes to be out in the fresh air riding his bike or hiking. He spends most of his free time with his family and friends.   

“She no longer saw herself as a poor person, but as a successful entrepreneur”  

Tobias looks back proudly on a very successful time so far. Especially during his studies in Heilbronn in his course of studies “International Business Administration – Intercultural Studies”, Tobias was able to gain valuable experiences, as well as experience the development and expansion of his idea. In the process, long-term and good friendships were also established.   

In retrospect, in particular one story remains in the young man’s memory during his time at GMI: Catherine was our first microloan recipient in the Philippines in 2014 and received a microloan of €80 to open her own sari sari store. Together with her husband, daughter, sister and parents, she lived in a cramped space in a modest hut on the beach – without a proper floor, sewage or toilet. Catherine needed a lot of support in the beginning. But she soon noticed that the shop was doing well and that she was really earning money with it. Her goal: Her child should go to a school later, so that she would not have to live in poverty. Tobias was fascinated above all by Catherine’s ambition and wealth of ideas. Her sari-sari shop failed after a short time, but she always had new ideas and finally ran a successful tailoring business.  “I was very touched when a few years later I was sitting in her new, bigger apartment and she proudly showed me her washing machine which she had bought with the profit from her tailoring business. It showed me how over the years with a few hundred euros someone could go from a small corrugated iron hut on the beach to a real apartment and success. And the best thing: Catherine no longer saw herself as a poor person, but as a successful entrepreneur”.   

And the future?   

Tobias continues to have big plans both, privately and for GMI. After successfully completing his dual master’s degree in business informatics this year, he plans to continue working in IT. However, the young GMI founder will take on a new challenge in another company starting in September.  

Within the initiative he wants to focus on digital progress. This year, Tobias would like to enable all participants to open their own bank account and offer mobile repayments for microloans. This way, our local partner organizations or the participants no longer have to travel long distances to make payments. He also wants to expand GMI’s work in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia. To this end, the 27-year-old is already looking for another partner organization in Lombok to support and accompany our project.   

  

Author: Anja