Opportunity International Trust Groups make it possible for enterprising individuals like Sheela Shantakumari of Chennai, India, to improve their lives and make a difference in their community–no matter how meager their resources.
A Trust Group begins when 10 to 30 entrepreneurs, usually women, join together and elect leaders. To be eligible for loans, members undergo four to eight weeks of training. As a group, they pledge to guarantee each other’s loans and support one another’s businesses. Because collateral is not necessary, credit becomes available to those previously locked out from formal financial services.
Weekly meetings are the hallmark of the Trust Group model. As members receive training in business practices, interpersonal relationships and health care issues, they develop close alliances along with new skills. With a repayment rate of 95%, Trust Groups have proven to be an effective grassroots approach to tackling poverty. While building up local economies, these close-knit groups also foster personal growth and create community leaders like Sheela.