Apr 20, 2017

Meet Aurelia - An Inspiring Teacher from Tanzania

Aurelia in front of one of her school buses
Aurelia in front of one of her school buses

Opportunity's EduFinance program addresses barriers to quality education by fostering change in the schools and communities we serve around the world. Since 2008, this program has delivered 151,861 loans valuing $81 million to improve schools and get kids in the classroom. Overall, Opportunity has reached 1.9 million children and provided them with access to quality education in their own communities. In 2016 alone, there was an 82% growth in School Improvement loans in Tanzania to empower teachers and proprietors to grow their schools—teachers like Aurelia.

For 18 years, Aurelia worked at a commercial bank. She was let go at the age of 45 when the branch where she worked was closed, so eight years ago, she decided to open a small school. Even when she was a banker, she had a passion for teaching. She knew she was well-equipped with knowledge. In her words, "Why should I stay idle with the education I have? My parents paid for my school and I should use that." So, Aurelia started her own school, the Young Roses Pre and Primary School in Tanzania, with a goal of building one new classroom each year.

When she started working with Opportunity, she received loans to tackle larger construction projects like the second classroom block and the beautiful dining hall. 

From her humble beginnings in 2007 with 9 students, the school has grown to a big school that employs 15 teachers and 12 support staff. They even have three school buses and a silo where they keep corn! 

Despite her big complex, she cares so much more about the quality of education than the infrastructure. She says, "I don't mind much about the buildings. I mind about the quality of education." 

One of Aurelia's favorite phrases is "old is gold." She has found that sometimes older teachers with more experience are much better suited to impart knowledge to her students. Her head teacher is in his 70s, and many of her teachers are older. All of them have been trained at teachers colleges. Because of the quality of education at Young Roses, Aurelia has a pile of applications - she says there are a LOT of university students looking for employment. 

School fees are always a challenge for Young Roses. Parents struggle to pay a full lump sum at once, so Aurelia began to partner with Opportunity to offer school fee loans to the students' families. Even with that option, though, students often jump from school to school, leaving unpaid balances at each.

When Aurelia thinks about the future, her primary goal is to find a new space. There is no more room to grow at the current location, so they need more space. They will also need money for new school construction. Wisely, Aurelia knows that it is risky to build a school on a loan because you have no idea how many people will show up. And Aurelia is so proud that she regularly pays her loans. She says, "I've never missed a month. I don't want to disappoint myself, and I don't want to disappoint people who have supported me."

Although Aurelia knows that she will undoubtedly face challenges in the future, she is confident that she will be able to expand her school, and she also dreams of one day opening a secondary school to provide children with the next stepping stone in their education. 

A student at Young Roses Pre and Primary School
A student at Young Roses Pre and Primary School

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Apr 6, 2017

Meet Caroline - A Market Vendor from Uganda

Caroline with her granddaughters Precious & Grace
Caroline with her granddaughters Precious & Grace

Caroline has faced many challenges in trying to raise her family out of poverty in Kampala, Uganda, but she has worked tirelessly to overcome them. For the past 10 years, she has managed her own business selling fruits and vegetables from a stall in the local market to help support her four grandchildren who live with her. They all currently live in a single room near her business in the market and her husband lives elsewhere in the village since it is overcrowded. Caroline’s son and daughter were not able to afford all of their children’s needs, so the majority of her meager income now goes towards feeding and clothing her granddaughters and grandsons and keeping them in school, which she considered her top priority. Her granddaughters, Precious, 9, and Grace, 4, have big dreams for the future, like becoming a teacher and a nurse, and Caroline is determined to make their dreams a reality.

Caroline joined an Opportunity International Trust Group made up of other small business owners and market traders eight years ago to help expand her business, receiving her first loan and valuable training to improve her operation. Her investment in her business helped it grow, but everything changed when tragedy struck three years ago. A large fire swept through the local marketplace, destroying her stall and all of her produce, leaving her and so many other entrepreneurs with nothing to sell and no choice but to start over. However, with Opportunity’s support and another loan, she was able to quickly rebuild her stall and purchase more produce to sell, and now she not only rents her market stall—she owns it.

Recently, Caroline also began using Opportunity School Fee Loans to help pay her grandchildren’s school fees. “Before that I used to have to beg and borrow from different people for school fees,” Caroline said. “Without the loan, I’d have to choose which child could go to school.” When she could not afford all of their school fees, Caroline was forced to pull Precious out of school, and she would help her at her stand in the marketplace instead. Now that she has a School Fee Loan, Precious is back in school and receiving a quality education and the chance for a brighter future. “I want to see my grandchildren finish university,” Caroline says, “then, when they graduate, they’ll be able to find good jobs like nursing and teaching.”

Caroline also has dreams of her own, including buying a piece of land where she can build a new home for her family. Although she knows she will undoubtedly face more challenges in the future, now she has hope and confidence that she will be able to overcome them and pursue her dreams with the support of Opportunity. Caroline is just one of many inspiring entrepreneurs who you have helped uplift in Uganda. You are equipping entrepreneurs, especially women, to perpetuate a cycle of lasting transformation in their lives, in their families’ lives and across their communities.

Caroline
Caroline's stand at the marketplace

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Jan 27, 2017

Winter 2017 Nicaragua Report

Each student was escorted by a family member.
Each student was escorted by a family member.

In December, the inaugural class graduated from Emprendedora Technical High School in Nicaragua, a country where more than 48% of children never reach the sixth grade. Founded in 2012, the high school is part of Opportunity International’s Community Economic Development (CED) strategy to build on the local assets in a community to grow the local economy through the development of small and medium enterprises. Opportunity’s initiatives in Nicaragua are based on self-identified community needs, and we then partner with the community to help them achieve their goals whether it’s building a school, repairing a church, creating new roads, or ensuring clean water through a new aqueduct system.

The school was founded with just two classrooms and 60 students with the hope that it would help lift an entire community out of poverty. This year, the Emprendedora High School reached full capacity with 300 students in grades 7 through 11. It’s one of the only schools accredited by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education (MINED) and the Technology National Institute (INATEC) which enables students to receive a technical degree in sustainable tourism or agriculture in addition to their high school diploma. The school is also accredited by Agriculture Best Practices (BPA) which promotes sustainable agriculture. The school has helped transform the entire community and runs several small agricultural and tourism businesses to give students real-world experience selling goods and services to cover the school’s operational costs.

One member of the class of 2016 is Roger. Four years ago, Roger had been expelled from a nearby school and without access to education he was destined to be trapped in poverty. Roger’s mother asked Opportunity to enroll him in the technical school and against all odds, Roger thrived; he was elected class president by his peers and graduated. During his studies at Emprendedora, he discovered he had a talent and passion for sales and hopes to start a business to raise and sell sheep.

Roger, is a reminder that talent is universal, but opportunity is not, and through your support, Opportunity will give more students like him the opportunity to succeed.

The first graduating class of Emprendedora
The first graduating class of Emprendedora
Roger receiving his diploma.
Roger receiving his diploma.

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