Issue no. 3 - 2014 Governor Community Connection
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.