This third and final plenary session of the day opens with remarks by Mary Lynn Staley, chair of the Opportunity International Board of Governors. She introduces Nadine Pembele, Head of Training for Opportunity International in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Highlights from Nadine Pembele’s Presentation
I am very honored to have the opportunity to join you this weekend, and to speak to you all tonight.
I’d like to give you a brief snapshot of my country. The DRC, once known as Zaire, is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria, with a population estimated at nearly 72 million, 60% of whom are under age 20. Its size is equivalent to that of the 24 countries of the European Union. You can see the potential and opportunities that are available in the DRC.
However, from 1997 to 2007, two wars destroyed the only few infrastructures and productive activities that still remained in the country. People were forced to live in poor economic, inhumane, and unsanitary conditions.
A decade of violence and systematic abuse has stigmatized many of the people who, to this day, continue to bear the consequences of these atrocities. According to the International Rescue Committee, more than 5 million people lost their lives due to war, disease, and hunger between 1998 and 2003. More and more people continue to die due to curable diseases and inadequate public services, infrastructure, equipment and access to care, particularly in rural areas. And our rate of infant mortality is one of the highest in the world and 80% of our people live on one dollar or less a day.
You can appreciate why our clients are so grateful that Opportunity International has established a microfinance bank in our country. You could see the join on the faces in the video.
Opportunity DRC’s mission is to help change the statistics I’ve just reported–by helping people living in poverty through financial tools and training to transform their lives. Every member of our bank is committed to support this mission as a team.
Opportunity DRC will fulfill our mission by equipping and empowering people not only with the right financial tools, but through financial literacy training, coaching, health education and basic life skills. We believe that transformation cannot happen without a holistic approach to serving our clients.
In addition to loans, we have applied for a license from the Central Bank to include savings and other important financial products. With these tools, we will be better able to empower our clients, helping to improve their lives and their communities.
Since opening our Masina Branch to the public in January this year, we have granted more than $800,000 in loans to over 5,000 customers, 65% of whom are women. The vast majority of our clients now have access to banking services for the first time in their lives.
Last month we opened our second branch in Kasa-Vubu, a section of Kinshasa with 190,000 inhabitants. To date, more than 332 loans have been paid out by our young team of loan officers, who have given themselves a year to reach 5,000 clients in the area, and I believe they will succeed.
At Opportunity DRC, we are guided to act from by our core values, not only in the workplace but in our personal lives. Only in this way can we experience the transformation that we seek to see in others.
Before coming to Opportunity DRC, I had only my hope in God and my desire to keep the values that allow an individual to grow inwardly first. Since joining the bank I have a place where I cannot only blossom but can share these beliefs for the development of my community.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to stand before you tonight to thank you for the commitment you have shown to those living in poverty in Democratic Republic of Congo. We will never stop thanking you for all the support and prayers you have given us.
On behalf of the staff and clients of Opportunity DRC, I would also like to thank a group of people who played a critical role in bringing Opportunity to the DRC. They have given of their finances; some have visited the country; through their conference calls, they have sought to know about our progress and challenges; and, they have continued to pray for Opportunity DRC and the Congolese people. They are known as the balami team – a Congolese word meaning “shepherd.”
Thank you Belami team, and thanks to all of you here tonight, for your generous and continued support. Merci. Merci beaucoup.
A bit about Nadine
Nadine Pembele is head of training for Opportunity International in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nadine assists with staff recruitment, manages staff training, updates current staff programs and presents modules on customer care. She also manages the induction program for new staff, facilitates company events, and with the CEO, develops training on transformation. Following her studies at Christian University of Kinshasa, she joined Opportunity DRC in July of 2010 and participated in its grand opening.