Opportunity International is helping to fight poverty through sustainable solutions
Anupa is a single mother to 5-year-old Sanjay. They live in a tiny run down shack in a village just outside Thrissur, Kerala.
Poverty has been a way of life for Anupa and she fears that it might be the same for her little boy.
But there is a beacon of hope in the distance; if she could secure a small loan for a tailoring business, this would ensure a steady income, allowing her to send Sanjay to school and put food on the table.
So, how do we help?
By joining hands with Opportunity International (Australia), a charitable organisation that specialises in socially responsible and sustainable microfinance options and resources.
Opportunity International was founded in the 1970s by an Australian entrepreneur, David Bussau, and an American businessman, Al Whittaker.
While living in Asia, David and Al realised the potential and clever business ideas that the locals had but recognised they were often poor or lacked funds to make their dreams come true.
Traditional financial institutions were not helpful either and this sparked off the idea for the organisation.
David Bussau’s first loan was to a poor Asian farmer, Ketut, who used the money to buy a sewing machine and start a tailoring business.
Eventually he went on to start an import/export business and today employs many others in his community.
Fighting poverty has to begin at the grassroots level, says Bussau. It is not about mindless charity, but about providing sensible financial solutions and training to those in need to thereby transform lives and futures.
“Invest in a mother living in poverty and help her use a small loan to start her own business,” Bussau says.
“With a loan as small as $70, mothers can put food on the table, send their children to school and transform their families’ futures for generations.”
One such example is Saleha and her husband Mujib, who belong to a remote village in Bihar, India.
They were determined to provide their children with education and better opportunities, so they applied for a small loan so that they could start their own small construction business.
The loan from Opportunity enabled them to earn a stable income and also grow their business which today employs seven other villagers.
Empowered by this success, Saleha also received training to become a health leader in her community enabling many other families to live a healthier life.
Improving the quality of a single family’s life has the power to positively change the lives of many others in the community.
There are plenty of charitable organisations that donate money and supplies to the poor and needy, but very few empower these people to come out of the poverty and build a more secure life for themselves and their children.
Along with small loans, Opportunity International also provides others services like a savings plan, microinsurance (for those unforeseen emergencies), remittances and also micropensions (to maintain a stable quality of life even in old age).
India is one of the main countries of focus for Opportunity International (Australia).
The staff work in close cooperation with NGOs and community leaders in India to identify and understand the real needs of the poor and design tailor-made solutions.
Along with monetary help, those living in poverty and vulnerable situations are also provided health education, resources for improved water and sanitation, first aid, nutrition and so on to build stronger communities.
Another success story is that of Panchratni who lives with her husband and six children in the poverty-stricken village of Jamodhi in Bihar.
Ajay, Panchratni’s husband, was the sole breadwinner and the meagre income he earned was not enough to sustain the family and enable the children to have a good education or provide for better opportunities for them.
Through Opportunity, Panchratni received a loan of Rs. 8000 (A$149), using which she purchased a few buffaloes.
Apart from milking the buffaloes, she also puts the animals to good use in the small farm cultivating a small crop of rice and wheat.
Panchratni is now able to earn approximately Rs. 500-1000 everyday.
This not only helps the family live a better quality of life, but also allows her to save a portion away for the future. She is now confident that her girls can have a good education and lead better lives than she did.
Let’s return to Anupa’s story.
As little as $70 will ensure that this single mum can purchase a sewing machine which will enable her to have a steady income and provide a better quality of life and education to her son.
It also means that there will be one less child on the streets tomorrow begging for food and money.
A stable and sustainable source of income is the only way to break the poverty cycle and re-build confidence.
Despite many fears, Anupa remains courageous, but she needs our helping hand too.
There are several ways that you can be associated with Opportunity International. Make a one-time donation or a small monthly one; perhaps you could start off a fundraiser (get your office friends to skip the Christmas gifts and instead donate towards a noble cause). Or maybe you could support a mother like Anupa.
Read more about Opportunity International (Australia) and the work they do, at opportunity.org.au