Opportunity International

Our mission is to provide opportunities for people in chronic poverty to transform their lives. Our strategy is to create jobs, stimulate small businesses and strengthen communities among the poor. Our method is to work through sustainable local microfinance institutions that provide small business loans, savings, insurance and training. Our commitment is motivated by Jesus Christ's call to serve the poor. Our core values are respect, commitment to the poor, integrity and stewardship.
Feb 6, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Trust Fund President

Sheela
Sheela

It’s Monday and A. Sheela Shantakumari is leading the Baba Trust Group meeting in Chennai, India. Nineteen women have joined together to repay loans, learn accounting skills and socialize.

Like many women in the world whose activity is limited by social conventions, Sheela barely left her house two years ago. Today, she is president of her Trust Group and a community leader with a profitable business. Sheela credits her new life to counsel from her loan officer, support from her group and training in business skills.

Opportunity International Trust Groups make it possible for enterprising individuals to improve their lives and make a difference in their community—no matter how meager their resources. A Trust Group begins when 10 to 30 entrepreneurs, usually women, join together and elect leaders. To be eligible for loans, members undergo four to eight weeks of training. As a group, they pledge to guarantee each others' loans and support one others' businesses. Because collateral is not necessary, credit becomes available to those previously locked out from formal financial services.

Weekly meetings are the hallmark of the Trust Group model. As they receive training in business practices, interpersonal relationships and health care issues, members develop close alliances along with new skills. For A. Sheela Shantakumari, the entire experience has been life-changing. “My courage has grown and I am very grateful and proud to be with Opportunity,” she says. Her sari sales business has tripled since she helped found the Baba Trust Group. She has become well known in her community through her involvement in philanthropic projects, including a children’s art festival that provides a platform for students to express themselves.

With a high repayment rate, Trust Groups have proven to be an effective grassroots approach to tackling poverty. While building up local economies, these close-knit groups also foster personal growth and create community leaders like Sheela.

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Feb 6, 2012

Trust Groups Create Thriving and Stable Communities

Trust Group
Trust Group

The Opportunity Progressive Trust Group in Kampala, Uganda is a robust illustration of the ways in which Trust Groups can strengthen a community and create stability by helping families provide for themselves, send their children to school and build for their futures.

Charity Namutebi has been a loan officer for one year in the Opportunity Uganda branch in Kira. She currently serves 455 clients in 20 Trust Groups working in Kalerwe Market, including the Progressive Trust Group. She begins her workday at the bank branch and then goes to the market for Trust Group meetings. In addition to collecting loan payments, and assessing the need for prospective loans, she also trains her clients in business practices and personal development, encouraging them to save and to take leadership positions in the Trust Group. She has built relationships with her clients and says that she loves being able to see that access to loans has helped them send their children to school, build homes and buy a car. Charity’s life, too, has been transformed by her work with Opportunity: she was able to buy her mother a house and to educate her siblings. Because of everything she has been given in life, she feels strongly about her work and giving back to society. She says that helping others thrive is her way of serving God. She hopes to one day become financially independent and would like to build a school to educate more children in the area.

Charity serves as Mariam Noah’s loan officer. Mariam says, “Charity is a very good person, she processes our loans promptly, guides us and show us how to save. Charity is like a relative to me.” Mariam is proprietress of the Ladybird Infant Primary School. Mariam hosts the Progressive Trust Group’s weekly meetings at the school and also employs Trust Group member Nuulu Nankya as a preschool teacher. Nuulu is also the chairperson of the Progressive Trust Group and a vendor of fruit drinks in the market. She has been able to build her business with the help of Opportunity loans and can now afford to send her children to school.

Members of the Progressive Trust Group send their children to Ladybird, and Mariam also supports their businesses in various ways. To make nutritious lunches for her students, she purchases fruits from farmer and Trust Group member David Mujanja.

Trust Group member James Kyeyune has a 12-year-old daughter at Ladybird and is a wholesaler of milk, sweet potatoes and watermelon, which he grows on his farm. He sells these items to the school for the students’ “break tea” at a lower price than Mariam could get elsewhere.

Rashid Kasolo sends his oldest child to Ladybird, and makes a weekly delivery of tomatoes to the school.

Eron Nabbagala is the parent of Ladybird students and supplies tomatoes, onions and potatoes to the school.

Ruth Nassimbwa sends her two youngest children to Ladybird, and sells onions, tomatoes and potatoes to the school so it can serve nutritious lunches to the students each day. Before 2006, Ruth had a hard time purchasing what she needed for her business. With loans from Opportunity, she’s been able to build up her inventory, adding more types of fruits and veggies such as green peppers and tomatoes.

Milly Nassuna is a Trust Group member who sells plantains to many other Opportunity clients.

Mariam buys school uniforms and dresses from Margaret Nassozi, a Trust Group member whose shop is located at the Ladybird School entrance.

These are just a few of connections that have been created by building a Trust Group, which supports a school, which in turn supports local Opportunity clients. Opportunity has brought together all of these people, helping them to create a thriving and stable community.

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Feb 3, 2012

Meet Opportunity client, Joyce Williamson, from Mwanga, Tanzania

Joyce
Joyce

Opportunity Tanzania achieved strong growth during 2011. As of September 30th, Opportunity Tanzania was serving 5,705 microentrepreneurs with loans, reflecting an 84% growth in just nine months, having begun 2011 with 3,093 clients.

Entrepreneurs like produce seller Joyce Williamson (pictured) are using loans to improve their businesses and generate more income for their families. Opportunity client Joyce Williamson sells produce in a market in Mwanga, Tanzania. 

Joyce is the chairperson of the Upendo Mwanga Trust Group in Mwanga, and a mother of four who goes to two markets in nearby Moshi twice a week to purchase her produce stock and sell it locally. She knew that to meet her family’s needs she would need to expand, but without access to capital she found it impossible.

Now, through a small loan, she’s been able to increase her inventory, making larger purchases at lower costs, increasing her profit margin. In the future she hopes to expand her business further by investing in a new structure and she says for the first time ever she’s confident that she can send all four of her children to school. 

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