Not yet a subscriber? Why not subscribe now - it's Free and it's Easy. Click here if already a subscriber.

Become a Christian Life in London subscriber and stay up to date with the latest Christian news, contests, events and information in London.
Name*   
Email*   
  
* Required Fields
This is a FREE subscription,
and you can unsubscribe at anytime.
Word Verification



SUBSCRIBE AND WIN
Become a Christian Life in London subscriber and help spread the word, you will be entered in our monthly draws for great prizes, AND the more friends** you recommend, you will receive one additional entry per each one of those subscriptions.

Name*   
Email*   
Suggest Friends   








* Required Fields
This is a FREE subscription,
and you can unsubscribe at anytime.
** Friends
Your friends will not be subscribed automatically,
they will receive an email asking if they would like to subscribe.

Opportunity International
CURRENT COMMUNITY STORIES
Good Samaritan: Mike Shaw (GOOD SAMARITAN)
BookMark (BOOK REVIEW)
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul London Youth Conference
REEL REVIEW - SHERLOCK GNOMES (MOVIE REVIEW)
The United Church & The Province of BC Partner to Provide Affordable Housing
Where’s God!? (HUMOUR)
17 Christian Ways to Say No – A video by John Crist (VIDEO)
Many Pastors Overworked, Feel Inadequate, Says Survey
Light the Fire Again

By Mike Toth


Most ministries, especially relief organizations, are by design and by necessity consumption based entities. By that, I mean that money and/or goods are funnelled into the ministry, turned into a needed product or program, and given to those who are in need. The investment made by donors is returned in the form of increased health, decreased hunger, stronger families, and brighter futures. There is an organization out there, though, that is helping to affect these areas through a different model.

When Dave Stiller brought Opportunity International to Canada in 1989, the concept of micro-finance was still a new and somewhat foreign idea for people. At its’ core micro-finance is the process of providing small loans to local individuals in developing countries for the purpose of starting and/or strengthening their business. Opportunity International (OI) combines this concept of micro-finance with micro-banking and even micro-insurance as a tool to help alleviate poverty and make individuals less dependent on governments and aid organizations alike. Obviously, there is more to the ministry than simply loaning out money.

When OI goes into a new area loan officers go out with flyers and sometimes loudspeakers to begin to drum up interest in the concept. They identify the influential people in a community to begin to set up “Trust Groups.” These Trust Groups are made up of 12-15 people who first get training in financial literacy and are assessed for what their actual need is, as some small business owners simply need to handle their finances better rather than to gain access to further funds. The Trust Groups also provide “relationship collateral” as few new clients of OI would have asset collateral to put up to guarantee a loan.



Opportunity’s microfinance model is holistic and as such builds leadership training into their programs. As an example, each Trust Group has a president, secretary, and treasurer. The treasurer is responsible for making deposits on behalf of the group, and distributing the deposit slips. Ninety-nine percent of OI staff in those countries are nationals, and most of those Christian, helping to insure both culture sensitivity and the development of strong, ethical local leadership.

While OI offers its services to all of the entrepreneurial poor, 95% of their clients in the 24 countries in which they currently serve are female. There are far too many reasons why this is to list here, but they include the fact that women are often the poorest of the poor, and are often single parents due to war, abandonment, or even being one of multiple wives. Often time men who run businesses in developing countries will own the bigger businesses in the region in which they live, and therefore need and qualify for a larger. Also, studies have shown that micro-finance sown into women’s’ lives will not only support them but are then sown into the lives of their family members as well.

The average micro-loan for a first time client with no collateral is $183 for a four-month period. The repayment rate experienced by OI is 98.9%, which compares quite favourably with repayment rates in the “developed” world. This repayment rate has an extraordinary effect on the ability of OI to affect these countries. A single large donation of $5 million can literally change a nation.

The multiplication of a smaller gift, though, is no less profound. A donation of $250 can be loaned out three times in a year, meaning that it becomes effectively a donation of $7,500 over a ten year period.

Businesses are not the only beneficiary of OI’s micro-finance. Another key focus area for OI is in Education Finance. They have been quite successful in providing loans in developing nations to improve access to schools, improve the quality of schools, and to improve the dropout rate in schools.

Opportunity International has developed creative ways to work toward permanently alleviating poverty in developing countries. OI is holding their Fall Opportunity Luncheon at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn on October 12 from noon to 1:30 pm with Nathan Byrd, an expert in developing world education. If you are interested in attending please contact Stephanie at sjoseph@opportunityinternational.ca. If you are unable to attend but are interested in more information about Opportunity International and how you can help you can contact Stephanie or go to opportunityinternational.ca.