When clients build businesses with Opportunity loans, they often set into motion monumental changes. Family income rises. Children are well fed and go to school. Homes are improved. Women gain status. For clients around the globe, these transformations take place every day–beginning with loans as small as $60.
Opportunity offers a mix of loan products, including individual loans, group loans, and loans tailored to clients in the areas of education and agriculture. A typical first point of entry, especially for women, is the Trust Group, which brings together 10 to 30 entrepreneurs who elect leaders, receive training and pledge to guarantee each other’s loans. Because the group guarantee replaces the need for collateral, credit becomes available to those previously locked out of formal financial services. The Trust Group model also strengthens the community, calling upon group members to support each other and encourage each other’s success.
The loan officer is an important source of information and encouragement for loan recipients. Their weekly face-to-face meetings with clients provide Opportunity International with unique insight into the challenges facing entrepreneurs. This knowledge has resulted in many innovative loan products, including:
- To improve access to education, Opportunity’s Banking on Education initiative provides loans to entrepreneurs to start schools, improve infrastructure and expand educational opportunities for children living in poverty.
- In Colombia, Opportunity created a job skills program for youth at risk and provided loans so graduates could open their own businesses.
- Opportunity Malawi offers loans for latrines and water pumps, to decrease illness and improve overall health.
- Around the world, farmers like Lucas Chingore of Mozambique are able to acquire high quality seeds and crop insurance through Opportunity’s agriculture finance program.