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Top 5 Highlights from Opportunity’s 2011 in Review

By Jamelyn Lederhouse

As we take the first steps into 2012, it’s good to see where Opportunity International ventured on the road of 2011. We ran all over the globe and hiked into new territory both literally and figuratively. We celebrated milestones, and went to new heights, for the sake of our clients and the sustainable work of microfinance. Sometimes it can be a wild ride, but it sure is a good one. The five big events below are just a few of the highlights from Opportunity’s year.

1. An Insightful Journey

Family Week travelers with the Amigos del Progreso Trust Group in Cartagena, Colombia.At Opportunity, we know it’s important to visit our field staff, meet our clients, and connect with the people and communities we serve. We also feel that our donors should have the opportunity to see this work firsthand through our Insight Trips. A life-changing experience, this year we saw the number and diversity of our Insight Trips grow. In March, a group celebrated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day in India, in June we hosted our Family Week trip to Colombia, and in July a group of YAO supporters visited Tanzania. We hope you were able to be a part of these great experiences and if not, we invite you to check out the opportunities this year to join us on a trip as we visit clients and staff in countries from Latin America to Africa to Asia.

2. From 18,000 Feet in the Air to the White House

In February, young professional Sarah jumped out of a plane for our clients in Tanzania.Jump for Opportunity showed how passionate and daring our YAO members are! On February 19, 2011, 29 adventurers, from YAO supporters to Opportunity staff, jumped out of a plane at 18,000 feet to raise support for our clients in Tanzania. The idea came from one YAO member, challenging others to risk jumping out of a plane in solidarity with our loan clients who take risks every day through their own business ventures. The event raised over $100,000 for our clients in Tanzania, and the unique approach also helped launch it to the final round of the Stay Classy Awards in their Most Creative Fundraiser category.

A plane wasn’t the only place YAO celebrated young entrepreneurs’ work and support in sustainable development. YAO, along with Empact, spoke at the White House during the FEE (Future of Entrepreneurship Education) Summit in November. Empact presented their Empact 100, a list of the top 100 companies started by young entrepreneurs who encourage local investment in communities and social responsibility.

3. The 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day

The image of Opportunity Kenya client Judith Godiah, and her children, featured in the special supplement of USA Today.This year was the centennial celebration of International Women’s Day, observed on March 8. In addition to Opportunity’s International Women’s Day Insight Trip to India, we also chose this important date to launch our 2011 Banking on Women initiative. The two-month campaign honored women worldwide and built awareness for the impact financial services have on their lives and families. USA Today also featured a special supplement in honor of IWD entitled “Investing in Women & Girls,” which included Opportunity’s work empowering women–who make up 84% of our client base—with small business loans, tools and services.

4. The Opportunity Family is growing

Vice Governor of Central Bank of Congo at Opportunity DRC's ribbon-cutting.We are always excited to be able to continue our microfinance work in new areas. On May 19, we were thrilled to open our doors in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Local and national government officials, as well as Opportunity country and international staff, joined the event alongside our new clients. Words cannot completely describe the tenor of the day, so please feel free to watch the video of dancing and celebration as Opportunity takes its first official steps in the DRC bringing financial services to a new entrepreneurs and communities.

5. Top 40 is Not Just for Ryan Seacrest…

The "Side by Side" gala at the International Market Square in Minneapolis.Devex, a leader in international development resources, named Richard Leftley, President and CEO of MicroEnsure, one of London’s top 40 development leaders under 40. Furthermore, in June, MicroEnsure won the FT/IFC Sustainable Finance Award, organized by the Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group. The major award recognized MicroEnsure’s work in creating life insurance products in Ghana through mobile phone technology.

Opportunity International also turned 40 this year! We celebrated this milestone at our conference in San Francisco in October, and at our gala events in Minneapolis in November, and Phoenix in December. The events captured the spirit of founder, Al Whittaker, to serve and equip those in poverty, highlighted the lives already touched by Opportunity over the years, and challenged all to continue that dream by raising funds and support for Opportunity.
This year we celebrated first steps, and anniversaries. We celebrated the role of women, and young professionals highlighted the work of our clients in unconventional ways. At Opportunity, we eagerly look forward to what 2012 will bring, and invite you to continue with us along the way.

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