Award-winning children’s book tells inspirational, true story of microfinance, and how one young Ghanaian transformed his community
Oak Brook, Ill., (April 23, 2009) Once upon a time, in Ghana, the oldest boy from a poor family was burdened with the responsibility of helping his mother provide for his siblings after his father suddenly died. He began by collecting and selling firewood, but their lives changed forever when he received a small loan to buy a hen. Given the chance to work himself out of poverty, he eventually built a flock of 25 hens and earned enough money to feed and educate himself and his family. As an adult, his chicken farm became the largest in West Africa, and he was able to hire neighbors and create opportunities for generations of families in his community.
The tale is inspired by the remarkable true story of Dr. Kwabena Darko, former chairman of the board of directors of Opportunity International Ghana. His triumph over adversity through microfinance is now the basis for an award-winning children’s book by Katie Smith Milway titled One Hen, released by Kids Can Press. The book is supplemented by an interactive Web site www.OneHen.org, where children play interactive games to learn about microfinance and teachers can download curriculum.
One Hen tells the inspirational story of Kojo, a boy from Ghana who, like Darko, uses one small loan to buy a hen, build up his business, transform his family’s life and provide a livelihood for generations of villagers. The book also offers a window into the power of microfinance to help the poorest people in the world work their way out of poverty.
“One Hen teaches kids that one person can make a difference in the lives of many,” Milway said. “The story educates children about entrepreneurship, finance and giving everyone a chance. It is the kind of approach to development that every child who has run a lemonade stand can grasp.”
Through One Hen, children everywhere will see that a hand up, not a hand out can make a big difference. With one small loan, an entrepreneur in a developing nation has the ability to build a business and a future for her or his family. In its final pages, One Hen explains how microfinance works and includes relevant information for children to explore.
How Microfinance Transforms Lives in the Developing World
For Darko, the book is a chance to share his story and teach people the power of microfinance.
“There were many mornings my mother woke up and did not know how she was going to provide food for her children that evening,” said Darko. “My mother and I each worked almost 20 hours a day so my siblings and I could eat just a little bit of food everyday. Today our farm is the one of the largest in West Africa and we’ve been able to employ hundreds of people from our community and help them provide for their families.”
As business increased, Darko also began disbursing loans to others through a trust named Sinapi Aba that became part of Opportunity International, one of the world’s largest microfinance organizations, that earlier gave Darko his loans and business training. Today, as one of the top microfinance success stories, Darko works tirelessly across Africa to share his story, motivate others and teach business management. Through his efforts, he has been dubbed by many as a father of microfinance.
“I often tell people that when I was young and struggling, somebody gave me a chance,” said Darko. “All I want to do now is to be part of something that gives young people the same chance to succeed.”
Web Site Uses Interactive Games to Teach
In addition to the book, an interactive Web site – www.OneHen.org – has been created to enable children to interact one-on-one with the world of microfinance. The site also provides educational resources for parents and teachers.
Developed by Sapient Interactive and Bain & Company’s CommunityWorks program as a pro-bono project, OneHen.org is designed to educate children and families as to the benefits of microfinance. The site, which has won several awards, features interactive games where children can earn beads and then “loan” them to small businesses in a virtual marketplace. For each bead loaned, the site will make a donation to actual entrepreneurs through Opportunity International. The site includes information for parents to donate money, as well as curriculum for teachers and librarians provided by publisher Kids Can Press, which brings the book’s teachings to life. These lessons are hosted on the site with downloadable exercises for classroom learning.
About Author Katie Smith Milway
Katie has coordinated community development programs in Africa and Latin America for Food for the Hungry, consulted on village banking in West Africa with World Vision and was a delegate to the 1992 Earth Summit. She has written books and articles on sustainable development and founded Bain & Company’s publishing group. She is currently a partner at The Bridgespan Group in Boston, a consultancy to nonprofits. Her first children’s book was Cappuccina Goes to Town. One Hen is her second book for children. To contact Katie for readings, signings or workshops, email her at Katie@onehen.org.
About Opportunity International
Opportunity International provides access to savings, small business loans, insurance and training to over five million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. Clients in over 20 countries use these financial services to start or expand a business, provide for their families, create jobs for their neighbors and build a safety net for the future. For more information, visit http://www.opportunity.org or join the conversation at http://facebook.com/opportunityintl and http://twitter.com/opportunityintl.