Up Close and Personal: Going to Ghana with Opportunity International


BLOG 2014-02 OI (header)

By Penny Crosby and Wayman Crosby, Senior Partner, CEO Nicola-Crosby/SPIRE

As NWM has grown, so has our commitment to giving back.

How do we give back?  With our corporate charity program, Nicola Gives Back, we focus on giving that supports children’s educa­tion, health, and well-being, both locally and internationally.

One organization we support is Opportunity International (Opportunity), which takes a unique approach to providing support.  Like teaching a man to fish so he can feed himself for life, Opportunity’s financial services and training seek to empower individuals in developing countries so they can independently sustain their personal and financial growth.

Excited to learn more about the organization, my wife, Penny, and I recently travelled to the West African country of Ghana, to get a first-hand look at how many Ghanaians are benefitting from Opportunity’s services.

Despite its recent status as a stable democracy, Ghana is still considered a developing country, and is challenged with widespread poverty. With an average income of $2 a day, Ghanaians are greatly in need of financial services to create better futures for their families.

When we arrived in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, we first met up with a group of donors, as well as Opportunity staff, to witness how extreme poverty deprives people of their dignity and dreams.  We also learnt how Opportunity is working to bring hope and transformation to individuals and communities struggling with the challenges of poverty.  To that end, Opportunity provides the following services:

  • education finance that supports schools for children with few other options
  • agricultural finance that enables farmers to grow more food and feed their communities
  • mobile banks that bring savings and other financial services to desperately poor villages
  • loans and training that help entrepreneurs build businesses

We then had a unique opportunity to spend time with clients in their homes and businesses.  We were most excited to travel north to Kumasi, a rural district, where we had the privilege of not only visiting clients in their homes, but also visiting a local trust group to see how they come together as a community for ongoing training, support and accountability.

We visited small businesses, bought food and local handicrafts, and learnt directly from those who are most impacted by the work of Opportunity.  With travel and safety being such a challenge both in rural settings and sprawling urban slums, Mobile Banks bring banking to people.  We were impressed to see these “moving bank buses” and the technology they have developed to serve clients with no reading and writing skills, as well as no identification.

Admittedly, Penny and I went to Ghana with mixed feelings: we were excited for the travel and adventure, but we were also very aware that seeing poverty and hopelessness for many would be challenging and feel overwhelming.

We knew the trip would have a significant effect on us, and it did: we were profoundly impressed by the work of Opportunity, and by the resourcefulness and the capacity for joy of many that we met.  It also made us grateful for all we have, and our gratitude inspires us to continue to give back.

Opportunity’s track record of success includes creating 10 million jobs through $6.8 billion in loans to over 10,000 businesses in the past 15 years.

To get a better idea of how Opportunity empowers individuals to sustain their growth, watch this short video:

For more information, visit: http://opportunityinternational.ca/learn-s6.php

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