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November 20, 2010

Today, We Celebrate Universal Children’s Day

By Lydia Baldridge Meier

Today, Saturday, Nov. 20, is Universal Children’s Day, as set by the United Nations. Time Magazine reports today on a new survey that gives voice to children living in poverty. The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey questioned children ages 10-12, in 30 countries throughout Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Conducted by ChildFund Alliance, a group of global child development organizations, the survey found that many of the world’s children are hungry, lack education and are engaged in work. A commonly stated goal for the children was to improve their lives through education. Fifty-seven percent said that if they were president of their country, they would make sure to offer all children an education, improve existing schools and build more. When asked what they needed, one in three answered food, with 45% saying they’d spend a spare dollar on food or water.

As Opportunity International recognizes and celebrates Universal Children’s Day, we’re examining the ways in which microfinance can improve children’s future.

Dorothy’s Rise and Shine School in Kampala, Uganda

Rise and Shine is a very appropriate name for this elementary school located just east of Kampala. The school’s owner, Dorothy, has risen to the challenge of educating her students so their talents and abilities can shine through. In 2000, Dorothy turned her late mother’s house into a full-time school, with partitioned walls for separate classrooms. The school’s community is very low income and without many sources of education; Dorothy soon realized she needed to expand if she hoped to make a real difference in the lives of her neighbors.

Dorothy took a loan from Opportunity to finance improvements to her school, including a new fence, a cleaner water supply, permanent washrooms and play equipment. She has 200 students: 140 girls and 60 boys. Dorothy opens her school to the most disadvantaged of those in the community, including 35 refugees from Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Although the Rise and Shine School has grown tremendously, Dorothy wishes to provide more for her students. First, she plans to build additional classrooms to accommodate more students. She also dreams of providing her students with a library and a computer lab. Dorothy is thankful that her Opportunity loans allowed her to better serve her community, and she looks forward to using future loans to continue to provide high quality education for even more of the local children.

Ivy Can Now Provide For Her Children

Ivy is an innovative young woman who sells beans to a local hospital. Profits from her business pay for household needs and her four children’s school fees. She has been a Trust Group client with Opportunity Malawi for one year. Ivy says Opportunity’s mobile bank has been integral to her success: “I would not bank without Opportunity’s mobile van. I was rejected from other banks; it is the first time that I am able to save.”

Using a loan of $190, Ivy purchased beans in bulk from a wholesaler, thus securing cheaper prices and reducing the number of buying trips. Her profits have doubled and Ivy is able to regularly place money into her first savings account. Ivy is very appreciative of the benefits ofOpportunity Malawi. She told the staff, “I have been empowered by Opportunity loans.”