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An Unforgettable Family Trip to Kenya and Malawi

By Rich McClure

Opportunity supporter and member of the Board of Governors, Rich McClure, writes of his experiences on the July 2010 Family Week trip to Kenya and his visits to Malawi:

Visiting eastern Africa, we met women and men who have enterprises fueled by microloans, who are selling their goods in crowded, dirty marketplaces in Nairobi and Lilongwe. We spent time with dedicated loan officers and the management of Opportunity branches, transformation staff, and CEOs and regional managers of operations in eastern Africa. All the people we met were cheerful, welcoming, and generally hopeful about the future in spite of very difficult circumstances. It was testament to the power of the human spirit to hear the people we met talk about their faith, their dreams and their hopes for a better future in the midst of economic poverty.

Throughout our trip, we were treated with openness, respect, and gracious hospitality. We visited our hosts in in over 20 markets, schools rural settings, and homes. Opportunity clients work long, hard days in difficult conditions.

In the schools we visited, kids from the village or neighborhood would shyly peek around the windows and doors to meet us. After feeding their families, most of clients’ profits from their businesses go into putting their children throughhttp://www.opportunity.org/blog/top-5-blog-posts-on-education/school[/intlink]. Gabriel Odwako, who has a small electronics repair shop and preschool-aged children, helped put his brother through pharmacy school. Catherine Auma, a tailor, has seven dependents, including five orphans. She is putting her two daughters through university. Almost every entrepreneur we met was supporting one or more orphans. They feel it is their duty—they wouldn’t refuse to take in the children of relatives, or even strangers, who are in need.

Though we were surrounded by extreme poverty and economic hardship, we also saw people and situations that were hopeful. I saw the work of God in most of the clients we met. But especially:

  • School administrator http://www.opportunity.org/blog/kenya-family-trip/Jacinta Njoki[/intlink], and the 26 members of the United Mothers Club, who pool their resources to make bracelets to sell and then use the proceeds to support the homeless children–five orphans and one teenage girl–whom they took in off the streets
  • Catherine, a client who runs a market business in the slums of Nairobi, who’s working hard to pay for the education of her children and several orphans whom she takes care of
  • School administrator Faith Njuguna and the teachers of Fountain Junior School who educate 200 kids in tin roof classrooms

School proprietress Faith Njuguna (left) stands with the students of Fountain Junior School as they perform scenes for us.

  • The students of Fountain Junior School, who performed scenes for us about women’s rights, HIV/AIDS prevention, character-building, and the importance of faith
  • The Kufulu Farmer’s Association, where the leadership manages 85 Trust Groups of 10 farmers each, giving them access to Opportunity loans and training in better agricultural practices

These individuals have a peace about them, but they also possess a drive that pushes them to apply for a loan to build a business, which will lead to better housing, better education, and a better future for their families and their communities. The resiliency and positive attitudes we witnessed in the people we met in Kenya andhttp://www.opportunity.org/our-work/where-we-work/microfinance-in-africa/microfinance-in-malawi/Malawi[/intlink] were amazing. Their economic hardship is in stark contrast to my own life, and yet their strength in the face of extreme difficulties is truly inspiring!

Opportunity VP of resource development John Kamperschroer also wrotehttp://www.opportunity.org/blog/kenya-family-trip/a post[/intlink] about his experiences traveling on this Family Trip to Kenya with his son Logan.

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