Opportunity International Offers a “Step Up” for Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries

Vicki GeneOpportunity International works to eliminate poverty by providing micro loans to women in developing countries who have the potential to grow businesses and employ others in their communities. Committee of 200 member, Vicki Escarra, Global Chief Executive Officer for Opportunity International – pictured here with Gene Simmons – told a terrific story that reflects Opportunity International’s work. She described a woman in India who applied for a micro loan of $60 to help grow her business of making cloth covers for car seats. She sought this loan, even though her husband, mother-in-law and father-in-law forbade her to ask for it. Vicki explained how she and Carly Fiorina visited the woman’s business. They climbed up into the area where she housed her company. The walls were lined with sewing machines. When they began to meet the company’s employees, they learned the relatives who had tried to forbid the woman to get a loan were now working for her! The former naysayers now expressed gratitude for Opportunity International’s help in providing the tools to help her grow her business and provide for her family.

Opportunity International’s website explains that the organization’s network includes 47 organizations, including 39 microfinance institutions that serve as program partners. They operate on many continents around the world, including: Africa, Eastern Europe, Central and East Asia and Latin America. Founded in 1971, it was one of the first non-profit organizations to recognize how valuable it could be to provide financial resources for people in developing countries who were living in poverty

This is a great example of how powerful it is to provide tools, not hand outs, to people who are willing to work hard to make the most of opportunities. Vicki noted recipients pay back the loans, which average around $180, at a rate of 98%. She commented that women who first apply for loans may seem insecure, and come in with their heads down, demonstrating low self esteem. However, when they come back to pay their loans back, or to request a new loan, their self esteem is high and they are proud of their accomplishments. They don’t want a handout or a gift – they just want the resources to make the most of their own skills and provide for their families and communities.

Learn more about Opportunity International via their website.

Additional reflections on charitable giving.

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