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Chicago, IL 60607

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© 2016 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Minnesota Supporters Spin, Discuss and Dine, Taking Action for our Clients

By Cassie Burns and Steve Waters

This November, Opportunity International supporters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area were busy holding fundraising and awareness-raising events for the sake of our clients. Meet two Minnesota supporters — Cassie Burns and Steve Waters — who each share their experiences hosting recent get-togethers in their hometown. Cassie was co-host of a panel discussion with local women leaders, moderated by Opportunity CEO Vicki Escarra with keynote speaker Bonnie St. John, co-author of the book “How Great Women Lead.” Steve hosted a cycling fundraiser in honor of his 60th birthday, taking a new spin on a milestone birthday to get his friends to give online to make an impact on global poverty. Congratulations to our passionate Minnesota donors! What will their actions spark in you?

How Great Women Lead

by Cassie Burns

Bonnie St. John addresses attendees at the Interlachen Country Club in Edina.  How can I grow as a leader to develop myself and help others? I often ask myself this as I manage my professional, personal and volunteer lives.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of joining over 150 women in the Twin Cities to discuss the topic of women’s leadership. The event was co-hosted by Opportunity International; Riverbridge Partners; and Leonard, Street & Deinard, three organizations committed to empowering women in leadership roles. It featured a keynote by Bonnie St. John, co-author of the book “How Great Women Lead,” followed by a panel conversation with a group of highly respected local women leaders, moderated by Opportunity International CEO Vicki Escarra.

Panel of women leaders speak on their challenges.Bonnie St. John shared insights from her travels around the globe interviewing women leaders — including Opportunity Nicaragua’s Regional Manager, Noemi Vivas Ocaña. As Bonnie spoke, I was reminded of how universal the role of women in leadership is. No matter the community or context, women naturally rise to lead and care for others. Strong women lead by strengthening others, too. When women lead, there is a deep sense of community.

Vicki Escarra led a lively conversation with local leaders including Kathleen Blatz, Retired Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court; Sandra Davis, Founder and CEO of MDA Leadership Consulting; Olga Viso, Director of the Walker Art Center; and Sondra Samuels, President and CEO of Northside Achievement Zone. It was inspiring to hear their personal stories of rising into leadership positions, the responsibilities they carried and how they encouraged others in their roles. A common theme was the importance of leading by empowering others.

I came away from the evening feeling stronger and more energized, with a desire to do more. I know I have many opportunities every day to lead in subtle and visible ways, and I’m now more aware of how I can make the most of them. One small way I can help is by supporting Opportunity’s One Woman Holiday Challenge, which empowers women entrepreneurs around the globe to have financial independence, becoming leaders in their communities. With one gift, I am supporting not only one woman, but many future leaders around her.

Spin60 & Transform a Life!

by Steve Waters

Steve and Kathy Waters meet an Opportunity client (center) in 2011 on an Insight Trip to Colombia.  This month marks a milestone birthday for me. I wanted to celebrate my 60th by doing something completely different. So my wife and I threw a birthday fundraiser for Opportunity International and Hope Unlimited for Children — a one-hour spinning event at Life Time Fitness (which generously donated a studio and an instructor) with 35 of my family and friends.

I was motivated to push myself and my community for the sake of Opportunity clients because of my experience last year on an Insight Trip to Colombia with my wife, Kathy, to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We saw with our own eyes the transformation in the lives of men and women in Bogotá and Cartagena through Opportunity International’s programs in Colombia. One woman whose home we visited had started seven businesses, including making dollhouse furniture, opening a snack shop and growing houseplants. She talked about how each business contributed to supporting her family. She also talked about wanting business accounting education to help her better manage her businesses. Her face lit up with dignity as she spoke! Many of Opportunity’s clients are saving money for the first time, and now have access to insurance and other financial tools that they could never have dreamed of before. I believe in microfinance for one big reason: because it works!

Steve spins to eradicate poverty at the Spin 60 event.You can learn about my big birthday event and our fundraising efforts at my fundraiser, “SPIN60 & Transform a Life!”

If you are so inclined, you can donate something to Opportunity’s work right on our website. A donation of any amount would be greatly appreciated, as my fundraiser ends tomorrow, Nov. 29, on my actual birthday. So far, ushering in this new decade has been energizing! Join me in this exciting new chapter. 

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