I left Opportunity Ghana for the U.S. in 2007, after almost four years serving the local staff and clients–first, as a loan officer, bringing Opportunity to disadvantaged women, men and children; then as a loan supervisor, providing leadership to other loan officers; and then as a Relationship Manager with a great team of loan officers and supervisors. We served clients in the Ashaiman community of Ghana with life-transforming Opportunity products, and we shared their hearts because we believed that building genuine relationships between staff and clients was integral to holistic transformation, a key part of the mission of Opportunity international.
I’ve been on the other side of the spectrum, fundraising for Opportunity’s transformative work in Ghana and other countries for close to five years now, and it is a great joy to be where I am now. I have an exclusive view that is very rare: I’ve been the hands and feet of Opportunity in Africa and the voice for Opportunity here in the States. I count myself privileged!
On both sides, I see a shared need, purpose, dignity, dream and heart–the generous donor in the States expresses a deep passion and an obligation to give what he or she has–to reach a client in Agbogloshie, Ghana, for instance, even if they can’t pronounce the name of the place or may never see that individual client. They do this because they want to give of their hearts. As one supporter told me, “We are so blessed here in the States that it is not right for us to see people suffer.”
The most obvious evidence of transformation resulting from Opportunity’s work is in its effects on clients’ daily lives. A mother delights in the fact that she is able to put her child through school, a father can rest assured that his maize farm is insured against total loss, and children can be glad that they can count on their next meal each day.
As employees of Opportunity International, we too experience transformation! In the past year or two, I have witnessed significant staff transformation at Opportunity Ghana under the leadership of CEO Cosmus Kowuoche. It is great to reward staff for their hard work but it is greater and even more heartwarming to trust the talents and capabilities of staff so much that they are placed in positions of great responsibility. This is what Cosmus has brought to Opportunity Ghana.
Opportunity Ghana has seen the growth and use of internal talents and skills, a sure testament to the value the organization places on growing leadership from within. Two noteworthy, internal leaps into leadership positions are those of Kwame Owusu Boateng, Deputy CEO, and Samuel Afful, chief financial officer.
Kwame joined Opportunity in 2006 as a Branch Operations Officer, and has grown through the ranks to become the Deputy CEO in 2012. This is a great transformation story for me because as I mentioned, I have a rare advantage of being on both sides of the spectrum. When I emailed Kwame to congratulate him, his reply was in sync with the feeling I had when I heard of his promotion. He said, “We give God the glory for what He has done with the team in Ghana under the leadership of Cosmus and for all to believe that we can handle the affairs of the company going forward.”
Samuel, with whom I served as a volunteer leader on the staff welfare team, joined Opportunity Ghana in 2005 as an audit officer. He has risen through the ranks to the high office of CFO. I called to congratulate Sammy, as he’s affectionately called, and in a grateful tone he said, “You know, my philosophy has always been that it is great to combine integrity and competence in everything I do. I am so glad that the leadership of the company could trust me with this high office and I know I will not disappoint.”
The mission of Opportunity International is great, and it’s a joy to know that everyone in our global family is a sure candidate for transformation!
Michael Okleme is a fundraiser, and Manager of the Opportunity Partners Program. He’s originally from Somanya, in the eastern region of Ghana, and now lives in suburban Chicago. As we write this, our CEO Vicki Escarra is in Ghana this week visiting the Accra and Ashaiman branches, local schools to see our education finance program at work, and rural areas to meet our agricultural finance clients.