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Insight Trip: Tanzania – AJ Renold Pre-trip Post

By AJ Renold

Twenty Young Ambassadors for Opportunity have embarked on a journey that is sure to change their worldview forever. During their 10-day trip to Tanzania and Rwanda, they will discover firsthand the impact of Opportunity’s work on our clients, their families and their communities. We hope you’ll read along as they share their thoughts on people, poverty and the promise of microfinance.

September 3, 2009

In just a few days, I will be leaving the U.S. to travel to with the Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO) to Tanzania and Rwanda. YAO is a group of young professionals from around the U.S. that supports the work of Opportunity International and shares a common interest in microfinance. I have been working on YAO-related things since I began my internship with Opportunity in May and I am super excited to finally be able to meet some of the most committed members of YAO. While I don’t expect to be an intern at Opportunity indefinitely (am currently job searching!), I do expect to remain an active YAO member long into the future.

So, what am I (and YAO) going to Tanzania and Rwanda for? I am personally interested in microfinance and I am going to see the banking programs that Opportunity International is developing in each country. I have been learning about microfinance for a few years now and I have been directly involved in it since my graduation from Loyola Chicago this May, when I began interning with Opportunity. Many people ask me when I tell them what I am doing, “What is microfinance? I’ve never heard of it.” Well, if you haven’t don’t worry! Simply put, microfinance is the provision of banking services (loans, savings, insurance and training) to the poor. The short mission statement of microfinance is to bring banks to all. Opportunity International does this through its many programs (both banks and NGO MFIs) around the world. YAO has undertaken Opportunity Tanzania, a new and growing program, as its champion project. If all goes as planned, Opportunity will be able to raise enough equity for Opportunity Tanzania to convert from an NGO MFI (which can only make loans) to a formal financial institution (a bank!) in 2010.

I have traveled much before in my life and I am excited to yet again undertake a trip to a new continent. As a YAO member, it is my goal to educate, inspire and involve all of those who cannot join me on the trip. I hope the clients we meet, the new foods we try, and the many other great experience we have will come alive for the readers of this blog! I look forward to sharing!

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