Charlotte Busch is a founding member of the Opportunity Campus Ambassadors Chapter at Loyola Academy in Chicago. She visited Opportunity's work in Rwanda with her family last year.
In today’s chaotic and social media obsessed society, it is increasingly challenging for teens to develop lasting and trusting relationships. While social media can be a force for good, too often we use it and other technologies as an outlet to create faux friendships, making it difficult to identify our true friends – the kind of friends that we can turn to in a time of need. You may have hundreds of “likes” or “friends”, but how many of these individuals do you actually have a deep connection with? Would you be willing to trust them with your personal well-being?
The true meaning of friendship and trust is what I witnessed first-hand as I sat with an Opportunity International trust group in the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda. These women, empowered by their belief in each other and a path to a better life thanks to a micro-loan, constantly work to support one another on their spiritual and economic journeys. Though their hands are as rough as sand paper from toiling at their trades, each woman has a tender heart and kind soul, and I’m amazed at the profound friendships they have developed. I have seen friends at home aid each other when someone needs it most, but I have never seen a support system like the trust groups where their futures literally depend on the support and guidance of the group.
As humans, it is essential that we build and nurture connections with others in order to cultivate a community that loves and cares for each other. While competition is healthy, too often we are taught that it must be at the expense of another -- you are either the victor or the vanquished. However, in the trust groups, these “competitors” in business are neighbors with a vested interest in each other and rejoice in everyone’s individual success. The success of one member is the shared success of the entire trust group, transforming the lives of all involved and often lifting an entire village out of poverty.
This infectious sense of hope, trust, and accountability was overwhelming and I was privileged to be amongst these wonderful women and learn from their example. I never expected my own life to be transformed, allowing me to gain a fresh perspective on the depths of relationships. It is a lifelong lesson that I shall always remember.