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© 2016 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Issue no. 3 - 2014 Governor Community Connection

CEO Corner

I hope you had a great summer and found time to rest and relax with family and friends.

It's been a productive and exciting few months at Opportunity International. I attended the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., which brought together heads of state, legislators, philanthropists, and others interested in creating stronger ties between the U.S. and Africa. In conjunction with the summit, the Caterpillar Foundation, which is a longtime partner of Opportunity International, committed $1 million to the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program, a trade and investment initiative to advance female economic empowerment.

Another of our partners, The MasterCard Foundation, is also investing in the future of Africa's women leaders through its scholar's program, which will enroll 15,000 students in high schools and colleges by December 2014. This and the Caterpillar Foundation commitment are great examples of the power of our partnerships to improve lives.

Looking ahead, I hope you plan to join us October 2-4 in Chicago, for the Opportunity International 2014 National Summit. The event will bring together hundreds of supporters from around the world, including leaders of major philanthropic corporate and nonprofit foundations, individual donors, entrepreneurs, business executives and your fellow Governors. This promises to be an enjoyable, thought-provoking and motivating few days where we can share ideas for how we can help even more people work their way out of poverty. Please visit opportunity.org/summit for more information and to register today.

We're also launching our "Invest in One Child" campaign this fall. From September through early October, we'll be highlighting our education programs and innovations that, thanks to your support, are changing the lives of children and families around the world. We're expanding our work and reach in the area of education and hope you'll join us by supporting these efforts. Please keep an eye out for more details later this month.

Another way you can directly impact our work and change lives is by hosting an event in your community to raise awareness and funds. Please visit the Governors Resource Center for more information on how easy it is to plan a fundraising event in your school, church, civic club or other venue in your community.

Thank you for your support. Together, we're answering Christ's call to love and serve the poor.

Best regards,

Vicki Escarra
Chief Executive Officer
Opportunity International

Summertime Sunset Cruise Brings Chicago Governors Together

On June 23, Governor Christopher Lueking hosted a sunset cruise on Lake Michigan for 45 Governors and friends of Opportunity. Chris's 83-foot yacht is called the Good Times, and true to its name, the boat was the site of a relaxing - and inspiring - evening.

The theme of this special event was, "Building a Family Legacy Through Philanthropy," and Chris Lueking's own family legacy of support to Opportunity reflects that goal. While living in Slovakia, his father Dean served informally as Opportunity's "pastor at large" in Eastern Europe and Russia. Dean and Bev Lueking have been longtime supporters of Opportunity, and Chris has been a Governor for the past three years.

Attendees met at the Chicago Yacht Club, where Governor Liesel Pritzker Simmons gave a thoughtful presentation on multi-generation philanthropy. Liesel, a Chicago native, founded YAO (Young Ambassadors for Opportunity) in 2008. She's also the co-founder and principal of Blue Haven Initiative, which focuses on how a family can impact the world by investing different types of capital and communicating that inspiring story to others.

In her opening remarks, Vicki Escarra called Liesel, "a shining example of how America's young generation is using its financial and networking smarts to change the world."

Once on board the Good Times, attendees continued conversations about giving across multiple generations, as they enjoyed views of the Chicago skyline and the shores of Lake Michigan.

Governor David Dillon attended the event with his wife, and he commented, "Michele and I very much enjoyed meeting a number of long-time Opportunity supporters and hearing Vicki explain what the current areas of focus are for Opportunity. We were impressed by Liesel Pritzker Simmons' thoughtful presentation on her journey to a better understanding of impact investing opportunities and strategy."


National Summit

It's time to register for the 2014 Opportunity Summit! The Summit is Opportunity's most significant event of the year, and it will be held Thursday, October 2 through Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago. 

Your participation as a Governor will give fresh perspective on Opportunity's exciting initiatives, and offer new ways for you to get involved. Network with your fellow Governors, and shape the dialogue about helping people in developing countries work their way out of poverty, strengthen their families and improve their communities.

Among the leaders you'll meet is Carly Fiorina, Global Chairman of the Opportunity Board of Directors. Former CEO of HP, she's a passionate champion of our mission, especially as it applies to helping women break the cycle of poverty in their families.

Other keynoters and panelists include:

Rebecca Jarvis, Chief Business and Economics Correspondent, ABC News

Reeta Roy, President and Chief Executive Officer, The MasterCard Foundation

Michele Sullivan, President, Caterpillar Foundation

Wm. Paul Young, Author of The Shack

Governors who will speak at the Summit include:

Janelle Lassonde (Education Campaign Chair)

Muffy MacMillan (Agriculture Campaign Chair)

John Edwardson

Dick Gochnauer

Liesel Pritzker Simmons

If you've been considering attending the Summit this year, please make the commitment to join us! Not only will you add to the success of the event, you'll gain valuable new insights and contacts.

"Economic growth, in terms of new job creation, is primarily driven by start-ups and entrepreneurs... Entrepreneurs accept risk and challenge the status quo, continually raising the bar and solving tough problems." - Keynote speaker Howard Tullman, a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, will speak about the power of entrepreneurship around the world. He will reflect on how broad trends in technology and financing can transform how we run our own businesses, and how we invest in entrepreneurs in poor communities.

Register Now! Click here to reserve your spot at the Summit today. Summit registration is $209 per attendee.

Focus on Financial Literacy

It was March 2014, and Betty Mutua, Opportunity Kenya's Central Region Manager, and Benjamin Kerema, Opportunity Kenya's Head of Transformation, were special guests at Jambo Radio, a popular Kenyan radio station. On air to introduce Opportunity's financial literacy teaching, they gave candid advice about how low-income households can budget, save and protect themselves from risk.

At the close of the hour-long show, Benjamin and Betty invited listeners to follow up by text message. Hundreds of messages poured in, with questions from all over the region. Opportunity's staffers were poised to respond to the texts, sharing more resources and building trust in the Opportunity brand. 

Benjamin and Betty's show was also aired on five other Kenyan radio stations - reaching a total listenership of one million people. Their show was just one of many activities in recent months to roll out Opportunity Kenya's financial literacy program.

Opportunity's goal is to train 25,000 clients over three years - and since inception in September 2013, we've already trained over 18,000 people.

We're using compelling visuals to teach important financial principles. Materials such as comics and board games are tailored to cultural norms, with creative storylines that appeal to audiences of varying educational backgrounds.

To convey key information, Opportunity Kenya has also developed DVDs - which are low-cost, allowing Opportunity to reach more people at scale. Our financial literacy DVDs reinforce and deepen lessons learned from the eight-week training sessions that clients receive prior to loan distribution, and the life skills training that is conducted throughout the course of the loan term.

Our special focus is on increasing financial literacy for rural women - because, among all of Opportunity's clients, rural women have the highest rate of illiteracy and the least familiarity with banking.

For the first time, families can experience a culture of savings - intentionally planning for the future and taking proactive steps to protect themselves from risk. They can avoid falling prey to exploitative financial schemes of unscrupulous people. And women can become equal partners in household decisions - for the benefit of their children's health, education and safety.

Opportunity in the Spotlight

Vicki Escarra was a panelist on "It Pays to Give," Town & Country magazine's annual philanthropy summit in New York City in May. Vicki was joined by Lauren Bush Lauren of FEED and Hunter Biden of World Food Program USA, among others. Town & Country ran a two-page feature on the summit in its August issue, highlighting Opportunity as a thought leader on development and global poverty issues.

CBS MoneyWatch profiled Opportunity International in a segment titled, "Mobile Banking is a Game Changer for Start-Ups in the World's Remote Areas." Vicki explained how Opportunity's mobile money program creates small business opportunities and jobs in rural communities.

Mixing It Up, a popular blog by a journalist who writes for the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, highlighted how Opportunity is using handheld mobile technology to deliver financial services and transform lives.

Entrepreneur magazine's August 2014 issue featured leadership lessons from Vicki on what she learned working at Delta, the City of Atlanta, and now at Opportunity, where she focuses on setting measurable goals to demonstrate the organization's impact.

In August, Vicki attended the African First Ladies Summit in Washington, D.C. with Caterpillar Foundation President Michele Sullivan, who spoke about our partnership and shared commitment to improving the lives of girls and women around the world.

Meet the Governors

In the early 1980s, Governor Bill Reichardt, owner of a successful dry cleaning business in the Chicago suburbs, was serving as a Board member of Young Life in Chicago. Through this board service, he met Don Whittaker - the son of Opportunity's founder, Al Whittaker.

"My dad's up to something... I think maybe you'd be interested," said Don.

And that was the beginning of Bill's fruitful journey with Opportunity - a journey that has spanned more than 30 years and helped to shape Opportunity's foundational programs.

Now retired to New York, Bill and his wife Sabra have traveled to eight Opportunity countries via Insight Trips and faithfully advocated for Opportunity within their communities and networks.

The Reichardts' first Insight Trip was to Honduras in 1986. This introduced them to how microfinance transforms communities. It also catalyzed relationships among a cohort of Opportunity's leaders.

"The kind of people that we met were very faith-directed, but open and inclusive," Bill recalls. "From just that one Insight Trip, I believe emerged two or three Board members and a couple of Governors."

Bill and Sabra ultimately added the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, India and Zimbabwe to their Opportunity passports. Two of their children (Bill and Kristen) joined some of these Insight Trips.

Bill deepened his contributions by helping to develop the organization's presence in Albania. In 1995, he traveled there to conduct a feasibility study for the organization. The couple has returned to Albania on their own several times since then - including a four-month extended stay in 1999. During these trips, they make time to meet up with Opportunity's first-hired Albanian employee, who is now the second most senior leader of the bank that Opportunity International founded.

Currently, Bill is deeply engaged in Opportunity's education strategy. He and Sabra are excited about the power of private schools to improve the overall education systems in countries where Opportunity works.

"Recent studies have shown that in the developing world, private schools constantly outperform government schools," Bill explains. "The private teachers frequently earn less than the government teachers, but are motivated by working in an atmosphere where the school's leadership - as well as their peers - are motivated to change the lives of their students. Private schools present an opportunity for girls and young women to realize that they're special, that they have gifts and can do something important with their lives. Hopefully the private schools will motivate the public schools to be more competitive."

In promoting Opportunity within his network, Bill has often used the organization's annual report as a key resource. "The annual report is an excellent tool for introducing Opportunity to friends," he reflects. He recommends that fellow Governors share Opportunity's new annual report broadly - read the report here.

Transformation Campaign

With the integral support of the Governors community, our "Invest in One Child" education campaign will launch on September 7. 

Help us change more lives! When you send a child to school, you give her a chance for a healthier, more hopeful future. 

As a Governor, you are invited to sponsor a classroom in a country where Opportunity works. Learn more about our Education Finance program by downloading the "Education Overview" brochure from the Governors Resource Center

Once "Invest in One Child" launches, we'll support you in spreading the word about the campaign across your network.

We've timed the campaign to coincide with the back-to-school season. On social media channels such as Facebook and Pinterest, we'll be motivating our audience to empower children by sending them to school. Furthermore, Opportunity will be working with corporate partners - including companies owned by members of our Governor community - to expand the reach of "Invest in One Child."

In the spirit of school days, we have a homework assignment for you! Please click here now to study up on how Opportunity's education program is helping parents afford education for their children and improving schools in poor communities. You will be key to the success of this transformative campaign.

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