When Katie Smith Milway, author of One Hen, visited Lincoln Elementary School in River Forest, Ill. last Tuesday, she was confronted with the extraordinary work of the school’s second-graders. Up on a screen in the classroom was Opportunity International’s donation website, OptINnow.org, displaying that the children had raised $425 to help end global poverty. “Do you realize that you changed four people’s lives today?” Milway asked the class.
One Hen is the story of a West African boy, Kojo, who receives a small loan to buy a hen and takes flight as an entrepreneur. He moves gradually from poverty to well-being to provider, creating opportunities for others. It is the story of how the world undergoes change, one person, one family and one community at a time. The true story is based on the life of Kwabena Darko, a Ghanaian entrepreneur who used a microfinance loan to launch what ultimately became the largest poultry farm in West Africa. Darko was instrumental in building Opportunity International’s organization in Ghana and has served as chairman of its board of directors.
Inspired by One Hen, the 80 second graders at Lincoln School made and decorated “henhouse” banks out of repurposed milk cartons, bringing them home for one week to raise donations from their family, friends and neighbors. In just that short time, the students raised $425 to support Opportunity International clients who are working their way out of poverty. And the pledges and banks are still coming in.
Through OptINnow, donors can choose specific Opportunity clients to support. With the money they raised, the Lincoln School students selected three women and one man who have started small businesses in Mexico, Kenya and Colombia.
The Lincoln School second graders demonstrate that the lessons of microfinance can be taught at any age. You are never too young to empower individuals working their way out of poverty.
To read a previous Opportunity blog post about the One Hen events at Oak Park and River Forest, please click here.