Opportunity International's Education Finance program began by recognizing education as an integral part of reducing global poverty and inequality. This year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasized education's critical place in our world and reminded us of teachers' extraordinary creativity, tenacity, and strength. They navigated school closures, attempted to teach virtual classes without reliable connectivity, and ensured that children continued learning amidst so many challenges.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we are celebrating teachers' remarkable work by highlighting the stories of educators at Opportunity's partner schools throughout history. Their collective dedication and resilience are a testament to the impact of their work—now more than ever.
With experience teaching in public schools, Vivian had the expertise needed to address a persistent problem in her community: The closest school was too far away from home for working mothers who cared for young children. Vivian knew she could help. In October of 1991, she began passing out flyers advertising her own school. Six children came on the first day, and Vivian's classes began to grow. Her first students performed so well on tests that local mothers pleaded for her to begin a primary school—so she did. With an Opportunity International loan and the added security of a savings account, Vivian expanded her offerings. By 2008, her school served nearly 400 students.
Dorothy's commitment to quality education and strategic business growth inspired women throughout her community. She converted a room in her home into a nursery, where she began offering care and education to 10 local children. With the help of an Opportunity International loan, she expanded her small nursery school into a private elementary school, employing 12 members of her community, serving over 200 students, and even offering free education to orphaned children. When Dorothy passed away, she left a powerful legacy for her neighbors. Her hard work encouraged other local women to pursue their visions with hope and determination.
Rosemary's deep love for children guided her as she transformed her first small daycare center into an elementary school and orphanage. Using Opportunity International loans, she constructed five permanent buildings that, in 2008, served over 900 children, many of whom were able to attend with discounted or free tuition. Rosemary's work was led by a deep-seated belief that we at Opportunity International also share: Education can foster better lives for both the current generation and all the young learners to come.
With three daughters of his own, Evans began a primary day and primary boarding school that responded to the needs of local parents. Growing up with a guardian who owned a scholastic business, he felt called to work in education. In 2007, he opened a small school for 100 students on rented land. Over the course of the next six years, with multiple Opportunity International loans, he was able to construct a safe, quality building for his school that attracted many teachers. By 2013, his school had 15 classrooms and served over 900 young people.
As the proprietor of Young Roses School in Arusha, Tanzania, Aurelia built a school that, by 2016, helped nearly 200 primary school students learn and grow. Aurelia understood her call to education well before she answered it. After a long career working at a local bank, she began a small school in her home with nine students. She received Opportunity International loans to expand her school's structure and offerings. For Aurelia, it was all joy. She says, "If you love your students automatically, they will understand what you teach them."
Gloria's living room has always been full of giggling kindergarteners. For decades, she has run a preschool from her home, welcoming kids who don't have anywhere else to go. She saw a need in her community and knew that it was a job that she could do well. In order to keep herself afloat, though, she needed support, which she found in Opportunity International. She received a loan to help cover the daily operating expenses of her school while she waited for tuition. With this support, she was able to educate even more young students—and help other parents support their own families by giving children a safe place to go.
When Joanna relocated to a new neighborhood in 1993, she immediately noticed the unique challenges that agricultural families faced balancing childcare and work. Her school provided safe, quality education to both younger and older children, allowing parents to work while their children learn. Joanna used loans from Opportunity to build additional classrooms and a well nearby. By 2015, her school served over 200 students, and Joanna was able to offer discounts and free tuition to students who needed it.
Each of these educators shared an inspiring commitment to their students and to providing quality, accessible education. Although the ongoing pandemic continues to complicate school reopenings worldwide and exacerbate student learning loss, it has also refocused global attention on the importance of educators in the lives of students around the world. So as we celebrate Teachers' Appreciation Week, we are grateful to the teachers who have served students in creative and practical ways throughout Opportunity's history, and we are honored to continue to provide educators like them with the tools they need to accomplish their goals, serve their communities, and help children learn.
Each week for the next 50 weeks, we will share a piece of Opportunity's history—major or minor, sobering or inspiring. We have gotten to where we are today by facing some of the world's greatest challenges, with you by our side. Please join us in celebrating the many significant moments that have built the foundation on which we will embark on our most audacious vision yet: ending extreme poverty.