On March 9, my husband Roberto and I stepped off the plane in Arusha (a place I hadn’t heard of until this year), and we knew we were in for an adventure. I couldn’t wait to get started.
In 2010 I had spent time in Johannesburg while filming Bang Bang Club. I became good friends with my security guard, Stranger (yes, that was his name), who invited me to his birthday party. It was the most beautiful party I had ever been to, in the township Soweto. I met mothers, daughters, sons, fathers and neighbors who were all celebrating (about 100 people!) and as I looked around I was so moved and impressed with how much Stranger and his family were able to provide given the limited resources. When I got back from the trip I knew I needed more, more Africa and more learning.
I had been looking for an organization that was working in Africa and focused on smart solutions that provide options for people living in poverty. I wasn’t interested in taking a picture next to a well, a school or a hospital and then walking away. I wanted to dive in and get involved. I needed to understand how experts are creating real opportunities to create long-term change. And, I needed to go back to Africa to learn, see and hear how it all works.
Then I met Opportunity International. Honestly, I had NO idea how the organization worked and why microfinance, including loans and insurance, were such an important part of the process. It was, without a doubt, one of the most important trips I’ve ever taken. I was so honored to have been invited and to spend the next five days with Opportunity International, learning, listening, laughing and falling more and more in love with Africa. But, I realized we all have a lot more work ahead of us …stay tuned for my next post about the trip and to hear how Roberto changed the beat of a Trust Group meeting.