How Our Special Offerings Have Helped Opportunity International

Guest ColumnistCommunity News

by Opportunity International

A marketplace ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo:  Opportunity International is a not for profit organization motivated by Christ’s call to serve the poor. We help families in the developing world to work their way out of poverty by providing financial services – small business loans, training in basic business practices, savings services and microinsurance. Our Christian foundation enables us to recognize the importance of spiritual and social transformation in addition to economic transformation.

The great need:  Poverty and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has had a devastating impact on families. This makes the DR Congo a formidable challenge and an urgent and necessary undertaking for Opportunity International.  Now is the time for rebuilding. There is tremendous work to be done. For example, less than 1 percent of DR Congo’s 66 million people have any access to financial services.  There is a strong demand for Opportunity’s services in the DR Congo, as there is high unemployment and very few ways for people to earn an income to support themselves.

Opportunity’s microfinance banking model:  Opportunity’s banks are a sustainable instrument in poverty alleviation. Most poor families, while struggling to build a small business, don’t have access to credit or financial services. The financial infrastructure we take for granted in the U.S. doesn’t exist for the hardworking poor in developing countries. They simply have no place to go other than a loan shark.  Opportunity’s institutions provide the working poor with the opportunity they need to transform their lives and break the cycle of poverty.  These are their lifelines, protecting them from those that might take advantage of their vulnerability, and providing them dignity and prosperity.

Opportunity’s services: 

•     Microloans: Our average first loan size is $162 and we have a 98% loan repayment rate.
•     Microsavings: The poor need a safe place to put their earnings. Savings accounts can start as low as $5 and grow over time to be re-loaned into the community.
•     Microinsurance:  With our experience in crop insurance we will be able to offer microinsurance products to small farmers, which make up 55% of Congolese businesses.
•    Transformational Training: Our banks offer transformational, Biblically-based training in self-esteem, leadership, business practices, and community health. As 85% of our clients are women, we focus on training leaders who will truly transform their families and communities for generations.

Now is the time:  As we have seen in recent media reports, some pockets in eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to experience significant unrest.  Opportunity’s plan is to launch our first branch in the capital city of Kinshasa during the second half of 2009 and to expand into the southwestern provinces. Despite the hardships of this nation, the potential is great for transformation among DR Congo’s poor. From our experience, the accessibility of loans, savings and insurance brings new hope to people who have never had opportunities before. As DR Congo struggles to move forward, Opportunity International wants to be on the front lines offering hope for the suffering in a sustainable way.  Please join us in our mission to empower families in DR Congo to transform their lives.

Together, we can truly break the chains of injustice in the Congo (Isaiah 58).

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