When Puyallup resident David Robbs first visited South Africa in 2005, he knew right away that it wouldn’t be his last.
“People say that if you go to Africa, it will capture part of your heart, and it did,” said Robbs, 68. “I realized God was calling me to do something — I just didn’t know what yet.”
Robbs was on a trip to visit some friends who had purchased a farm. As he met more and more people, he discovered that those living in the area struggled with taking advantage of business opportunities there. With two decades worth of experience in management positions, Robbs set off to do what he could to help, creating the Poyeho Project in 2007.
The Poyeho Project is a nonprofit organization that works to teach business skills in African countries and create successful businesses. Poyeho is the phonetic spelling of a Greek work, meaning “way-maker,” said Robbs.
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“(The project) began with a vision of going and helping people with business plans they couldn’t organize themselves,” Robbs said. “They might have a dream for a business, but don’t know how to make it happen. (The goal) is to help sustainable businesses and bring hope.”
(The project) began with a vision of going and helping people with business plans they couldn’t organize themselves. They might have a dream for a business, but don’t know how to make it happen. (The goal) is to help sustainable businesses and bring hope.
Dave Robbs, founder of Poyeho Project
Now approaching its 10th year, the Poyeho Project has helped more than 500 people follow their dreams. Robbs returned from a five-week trip to Zambia, Africa this month, where he taught two workshops for students. The workshops are two days long and cover business principles, including creating business plans.
“I identified areas that were key to successful businesses in the U.S.,” Robbs said. “The problems they have there are the same problems here.”
“They were excited for everything that I was presenting to them and how to look at businesses differently,” he added.
Robbs helped launch many businesses in the agriculture industry and currently has two in operation in Malawi, Africa. One of them is a goat and cattle project with the vision to grow a goat herd and sell the offspring, run by CEO Gershom Kwerakwera.
Currently, there are four students that Robbs works with through the Poyeho Institute of Business, which Robbs launched in 2015. The 68-year-old also launched High 5 for African Business, which provides low-cost loans for businesses by collecting funds from a small group of donors.
“In the last three or four years, I’ve noticed that it takes time,” Robbs said.
It can take years for a business to become profitable and successful, and during his ten years with the Poyeho Project, he’s seen some close down and others thrive.
Dayle Robbs, Dave’s wife, went on her first trip to Africa in 2007.
My heart was gripped for the continent and the people. What I saw was that people are the same wherever you go... Because I’ve seen (the project) from the beginning, I’ve seen the faithful consistency in Dave to better Poyeho.
“My heart was gripped for the continent and the people. What I saw was that people are the same wherever you go,” Dayle said. “Because I’ve seen (the project) from the beginning, I’ve seen the faithful consistency in Dave to better Poyeho.”
Dayle and Dave first met in California and married in 1971. They moved to Puyallup in 1978. They have three children and two of them serve on the Poyeho Project’s Board of Directors.
Moving forward, Dave hopes to get more people involved with the Poyeho Project, which he wants to continue on for generations.
“My vision is bigger than me — it’s something that needs to carry on,” Dave said. “It needs time to develop.”
“It’s a generational vision,” Dayle added. “Change takes time. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Dave is a member of CityGate Church in Puyallup, a Puyallup Valley Rotary member and has worked on the board of Communities in Schools of Puyallup for 10 years.
Silent Auction and Dinner
When: 6-10 p.m. April 29.
Where: Best Western Premier, 620 S Hill Park Drive, Puyallup.