As Colombia transitions into a new era of peace, Opportunity is focused on expanding economic and educational opportunities to ensure all families can work toward a more productive and hopeful future. Over the next year, Opportunity aims to:
Expand outreach to women entrepreneurs living in violence-affected areas Opportunity is expanding our outreach to two new areas, Caucasia and Carmen de Bolívar, both of which are rural areas that have been affected by violence. Opportunity will target women entrepreneurs, who often have some of the most pressing financial needs, to provide them with loans and hands-on training to help them build businesses and bring more economic opportunities to their underserved communities.
Equip Trust Group Leaders to be change agents in their communities Opportunity is deepening the trainings all Trust Group Leaders receive, which helps them become a valuable source of knowledge and support for their community members. Trust Group Leaders receive training to encourage honest and effective Trust Group management and repayment, as well as training in client protection principles, including how to safeguard personal information and what insurance resources are available for clients. With greater confidence and skills, Trust Group Leaders become important agents of change for their communities.
Improve ‘Community Mother’ households As more parents find employment, daycares and schools are still too sparse, especially in rural areas. To address this challenge, the Colombian government is growing its “Community Mother” program, which provides supplemental income to individuals who open their homes as daycares, providing parents with a safe place to send their children while they are at work. Opportunity provides Community Mothers with loans and guidance to invest in improvements to their homes (such as bigger kitchens, or more beds for children) to help them provide better care for children in their communities.
Support community-led projects to solve local issues Opportunity Trust Groups, because they are made up of local mothers and fathers from the same community, often dream of solutions to the biggest challenges they face. Opportunity partners with Trust Groups to help them invest in community-wide initiatives, such as installing wells or building recreation centers, just as the Girasoles Trust Group rallied together to build a community center. It was completed last year and now serves as a school and an open space for neighborhood activities. The women of this trust group are now forces of change in their community, creating ripples of opportunity for their children and their neighbors to build a more hopeful future together.
The nearby government schools in Joanna community aren’t able to offer local children the quality education they deserve—which is why so many children stay home to help their parents with farming or childcare rather than attending school. Joanna knew she could help, so five years ago, she started a school of her own to give local children a chance to learn.
Joanna invested her savings and purchased land and a small wooden structure for her first classroom. After enrollment quickly increased, Joanna applied for a loan with Opportunity to build two new classrooms to accommodate a wider age range of children, ensuring older siblings could stay in school instead of staying home to care for the younger children while their parents worked in the fields. Joanna also used part of the loan to dig a well, which has become an invaluable resource for the students and staff. With easy access to clean water, it is much easier to cook and keep the children clean and healthy. The school’s enrollment has grown as more parents see the benefit of sending their children to Joanna’s school. Today, her school serves approximately 250 students, providing them with the opportunity to learn important skills and break the cycle of poverty. Joanna plans to use her next loan to build bathrooms to further improve her school and increase attendance.
Grace operates a hair salon in her community called Light. She worked hard at her business, earning a modest profit that helped make ends meet when combined with her husband’s income. Then, when a relative died unexpectedly, Grace took in the two children and insisted on raising them as her own. She was eager to enroll them in primary school but barely making ends meet when it was just her and her husband, Grace began to worry about the expenses for a family of four. She knew if she could expand her business she would be able to support her family and ensure the children received an education.
Fortunately, when she expressed her concerns to a friend, she introduced Grace to Opportunity International. She joined a Trust Group, where she gained the business support she needed, as well as a loan to expand her salon. Her business began to grow, and Grave diversified her income by investing a small amount of her time to raising pigs.
Over the years, Grace has moved beyond a life of uncertainty and now proudly runs two businesses. She is using her increased income to support her family and to create jobs for her neighbors. With the growth of her salon, Grace has been able to purchase land and build a family home with electricity, open her first savings account, and secure affordable insurance for her family.
Now, Grace is the president of her Trust Group and explains she feels “happy that people trust me with so much responsibility. My husband looks at me differently – with pride. I aspire to graduate from my Trust Group to Opportunity Rwanda’s larger Individual program and my loan officer has been a great mentor and encouragement to me.” Opportunity International helped Grace change her life and her family’s future, and now Grace is giving back to her community.