The following post is by Shannon Leutheuser. Shannon is a Young Ambassador for Opportunity and a member of the YAO Advisory Board.
As a working mom with two amazing young children, I can say without hesitation that there is no greater joy in my life than caring for my children. My life revolves around their every need – making sure they are well-fed, well-dressed and thriving in every way. Like many mothers I know, I serve them more food than they could ever eat and rarely refuse a request for dessert. I fuss over their every runny nose and flu and get their doctor’s advice on every developmental milestone. I schedule their days with music class and play groups, hoping to give them every opportunity to learn and grow.
By following the work of Opportunity International, I’m reminded that there are millions of mothers who love their children just as dearly but work with a very different set of resources. Rather than pleading with their children to eat one more bite of vegetables at the dinner table, they struggle to put food on the table at all. Rather than building a college savings fund from the time of birth, they must tell their children that they cannot afford the small monthly school fee required to provide a decent education. Harder still is that each day, a mother somewhere loses her precious child to malnutrition, easily preventable disease or unsanitary conditions.
95 percent of Opportunity International’s loans go to women, many of whom have experienced what it means to struggle to provide the barest of essentials for their families. Based on collateral of nothing more than a trust group of similarly-situated women, Opportunity International provides financial resources, education and training to women who have nowhere else to go. In return, these determined women create sustainable solutions to poverty and bear a 98 percent repayment rate. Most importantly, studies show that women clients reinvest 90 percent of their incomes back into their families – sending their children to school, ensuring they are clothed and fed, and saving for the future. But to any mother, this is probably no surprise – we share a common understanding that the greatest investment we can make is into our children, our families and our communities.
This Mother’s Day, in addition to honoring the women in my life, I honored the connection among all women in the common experience of motherhood. Opportunity International is building a network of women investing in women to end the cycle of poverty, and I am humbled to be a part of it.