Issue no. 4 - 2014 Governor Community Connection
Our moment is now!
I was thrilled to see many of you at the Opportunity International 2014 National Summit, in Chicago. The event, themed Creating Momentum, brought together more than 350 supporters from around the world, including leaders of major philanthropic corporate and nonprofit foundations, individual donors, entrepreneurs, business executives and media.
Among the highlights of the Summit, we heard personal insights from Governors, including Kevin Compton, Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Megan Tamte, Barbara Lupient and Ted Moser. We also listened to the story of Opportunity client, Remy and her daughter Amina from the Philippines who broke the cycle of poverty in their family with help from us.
Several of our program directors were also at the Summit, including Nathan Byrd, Head of Education Finance, who discussed how our program has had an impact on more than a million children in the last three years alone. Rosa Wang, Director of Mobile Money, announced our new goal of reaching 1.5 million clients through cell phone banking within the next three years. John Magnay, Head of Agriculture, discussed how African smallholder farmers are increasing productivity by as much as 200 percent. We were also excited to hear from K.C. Ranjani, Executive Director of Opportunity programs in India, who discussed how the organization is financing water, sanitation, solar energy and literacy efforts for women.
During one of my Summit presentations, I shared a quote from Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, that underscores the urgency of our work: "Whatever you do, please remember that the time is now for all of us to work together to bend the arc of history toward justice.”
Beyond sharing highlights of our Summit, this issue takes a closer look at how Governors like you are creating a lasting legacy of philanthropy in their families. You’ll also meet Rev. Laura Truax, a Governor whose ten-year partnership with Opportunity helped inspire her to make headlines by introducing a “reverse tithe” to her congregation.
On a related note, I'm delighted to announce that Wendy Cox has accepted our invitation to serve as volunteer Vice Chair of the Governors Community. We are fortunate to have Wendy’s insights—as well as those of Karen Cope Robinson, the current Chair of the Governors and a member of our Board of Directors—as we embark on this new chapter in the evolution of our Governors Community and build on our momentum around the world.
Thanks to your support, this Christmas season is a time of hope and rejoicing for us all.
“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’” (Luke 2:10-11).
P.S. To help celebrate this Christmas season, we have sent each Governors Community family five Opportunity gift cards that are loaded with funds to help our clients. Please be sure to use these cards to introduce your friends and family to our work this holiday season. When they visit our website to redeem their card, they can choose a client loan to fund, or an Opportunity initiative to support. This is a wonderful way for you to provide others with the joy of giving! Again, thank you.
Laura Truax didn’t know that the simple act of giving a speech would transform her own life – and help to fuel her enduring creativity as a pastor and writer.
Ten years ago, Opportunity asked her to prepare an address for an Opportunity donors’ forum.
But first, she had some research to do.
“Before the meeting, I traveled with a group of Governors to Nicaragua for a few days,” she explained. “While that trip took us to houses of poverty and families in want, we experienced the transformational power of opportunity…. Seeing the impact of small loans made my husband and I want to be part of this amazing organization.”
Around the same time that Laura became involved in Opportunity, she was chosen to be Senior Pastor at LaSalle Street Church in downtown Chicago. This non-denominational, evangelical church has a long tradition of uniting faith and action.
Much like Opportunity, Laura’s church is an “incubator for thinking creatively and faithfully about what it means to follow Christ in a world of need.” Through the years, the Opportunity initiatives that Laura has been involved in as a Governor have played a role in informing her activities as a minister.
Most recently, Laura made headlines when, through her leadership, LaSalle Street Church unrolled its “reverse tithing” project. After her church received a significant return on a real estate transaction in summer 2014, she decided to take a bold step.
“As I was praying about how the Lord might want us to use this for the Kingdom of God, I was also reading Jesus’ teaching on the Parable of the Talents in which each of the landowners’ servants were entrusted with the master’s resources and asked to invest them in whatever manner they saw fit,” Laura recalled.
“It became clear to me that the Lord was asking us first to tithe on the money and give those resources to the landowner’s servants (us!) and was asking each one of us to invest a portion of that tithe in whatever way they saw fit. The first Sunday in September 2014, we distributed the $160,000 to all the actively engaged people of our congregation.” (The $160,000 represented a tenth of the money that the church had earned from the real estate sale.)
“There are several amazing stories so far – people pooling their money for a scholarship fund for neighborhood youth, doctors giving to an Ebola clinic in honor of a stricken colleague – but perhaps the one that stands in greatest relief to me is a really simple story from one of our seniors,” she said.
Nadeen is a LaSalle Street Church member who had, at times, depended on the church’s benevolence funds for sudden expenses that her limited income couldn’t cover. Upon receiving her distribution of $500, she returned the majority of it back to the benevolence fund
As a Governor, Laura has witnessed how Opportunity perpetuates giving through loans that are repaid and recycled back into the system. She’s delighted to see this principle playing out in her own congregation.
“What a thrill it is to offer someone the pleasure of giving,” Laura said. “People have truly allowed the master’s resources to just flow through their hands and hearts.”
Laura believes that the most rewarding aspect of being a Governor has been “…visiting the determined, hard-working Opportunity clients around the world. Visiting them with a wonderful group of interested, engaged Opportunity donors is even better!”
Laura and Terry have three children—two are in college and one is in graduate school. Laura serves as a teaching pastor at the University of Chicago and is pursing a Doctor of Ministry degree through Fuller Seminary.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the national NPR show Here & Now aired an interview with Laura to delve into the remarkable story of her reverse tithe. Hear Laura describe how her congregation reacted to the announcement. And for a deep dive into her ideas about grace and making an impact on the world, read Laura’s 2013 book, Undone: When Coming Apart Puts You Back Together.
This holiday season, Opportunity invites you to help empower one person to break free from poverty. Every donation of $150 will give an entrepreneur the tools to run his or her own business.
We’re making it simple for you to give the gift of opportunity. By now you should have received five Opportunity gift cards in the mail, loaded with funds. We encourage you to give the card to a loved one, friend or business associate who doesn’t yet know about Opportunity.
They’ll select the individual client they want to support and feel the joy of investing in a motivated entrepreneur. They’ll know how good it feels to give the gift of opportunity for someone else.
Call your Opportunity representative with any questions about your gift cards, and visit us here. Opportunity wishes you a Merry Christmas!
Governor Kristen Doyle is a partner in investment consulting at Aon Hewitt in Chicago, a firm that serves private and public retirement systems, endowments and foundations. Over the past four years, Kristen has been involved with Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO), and is passionate about helping fellow YAO members to better understand microfinance.
Since the birth of her son Cullom, Kristen and her husband Brian have begun thinking about how to help children embrace giving. “One of the most important qualities I want to pass on to my son is caring about others, unconditionally, and using the resources we have been blessed with to make other people's lives better,” she shared. “Passing on a legacy of philanthropy is one of the key ways to teach our children that there is a larger world out there where people do not always have food on the table, or a car to drive, or access to good education.”
Jim and Carol Hamilton
Governor Jim Hamilton of Laguna Beach, California has served multiple terms on Opportunity’s board, and was also a member of the board of Opportunity Bank Malawi. Jim and his wife Carol have been married for 60 years and their family includes three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“We wanted them to experience firsthand the circumstances in which most of the world finds itself,” Jim said. “Thus, two of our children and seven of our grandchildren have joined us on Insight Trips to Africa and Central America. We have been gratified to know, both through their testimony and their actions, that these experiences have helped shape in them a broader and more realistic world view.”
John and Kathryn Hart
When he initially became involved with Opportunity, Governor John Hart was following the inspirational example of his aunt, who devoted her life to serving the poor in Bolivia. Opportunity’s business model was also a major draw for him. While traditional nonprofits tend to consume capital in order to deliver their programs, Opportunity keeps a donor’s contributions in circulation indefinitely and leverages the power of compound interest. “Because I’m in finance, Opportunity offered a model I liked a whole lot more,” John said. “Properly managed, the capital keeps working. Year after year, it continues to lift people up.”
John and his wife Kathryn support Opportunity in multiple meaningful ways – from sponsoring the New York City Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO) chapter’s annual event to serving on the Ambassadors Council. They have also taken the significant step of including Opportunity in their estate plan. If you would like more information on how to make a legacy gift to Opportunity International, please contact Richard Spalholz, Vice President of Planned Giving, at 631-697-7562 or [email protected].
4 powerful ways to get your family involved in Opportunity
- 1. Invite your relatives to join you on an Insight Trip. Learn more about Opportunity’s upcoming trips at https://opportunity.org/insight. We’ve already planned nine trips for 2015! Contact Adele Nandan for more information at [email protected] or 630-242-4147.
- 2. Tell your college-aged children, grandchildren or other relatives about our Campus Ambassadors program. Send them a link to https://opportunity.org/join-a-community/campus-ambassadors, where they can connect with a chapter at their college, or get help starting a new chapter.
- 3. If you have children, grandchildren or other relatives in their 20s or 30s, encourage them to join Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO). Through YAO, they’ll be inspired by a network of new friends with a heart for giving. We have 24 YAO chapters around the country and internationally, and the group continues to grow! Learn more at https://opportunity.org/yao
- 4. Tell younger children stories about generosity and transformation. Kids and young teens will relate to your personal stories about Opportunity. What inspired you to begin giving? How has your heart been touched? Share your photos with them, or show them videos from Opportunity’s website.
Chinese show Full Frame profiled Vicki Escarra and Opportunity’s creation of jobs in the developing world. In the China Central Television program, Vicki highlighted Opportunity’s structured, unified and efficient approach to giving its five million clients a path to financial security, purpose and dignity. The channel is viewed in 85 million homes across more than 100 countries.
Vicki was featured in a HuffPost series called “Paradigm Shifters,” which tells the stories of remarkable women who turn weakness into strength. The article, titled “Vicki Escarra—Opening Windows of Opportunity,” presents Vicki as a business leader who is applying lessons she learned in the corporate world to her leadership of Opportunity. “We have a goal of creating 20 million jobs by 2020 and we're currently 12 million into it,” Vicki said. “I don't know another organization in the entire world that can do that.”
Vicki also wrote a blog post for HuffPost to bring attention to the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. She invited readers to make a difference by joining forces with Opportunity. “The statistics often feel overwhelming,” she wrote. “But this is where we start; we start with one person, in one community—and we're changing the world.”
Top UK news outlet The Guardian featured Opportunity in its article, “Youth Unemployment is an International Security Issue.” Vicki made the cogent case that without job creation in the developing world, we may see more gangs, drugs and violence.
If you attended Opportunity’s 2014 National Summit in October, thank you for your valuable contributions to the event!
In total, 350 people participated. Our Governors’ community engagement in the Summit was extraordinary. You are our committed champions.
Even if you couldn’t attend, it’s not too late to claim your front row seat at the Summit! Set some time aside with your family to watch highlights of key speeches and panel discussions. Watch the inspiring videos!
Meet Remy and Amina
Mother and daughter Remy and Amina Mendez shared the stage with Vicki for a candid conversation about poverty and transformation.
Before becoming involved with Opportunity Philippines, Remy’s family was desperately poor. She had to leave her young daughters from dawn until dusk while she worked as a farmhand, earning just a few dollars a day.
With Opportunity loans, Remy started and expanded her own pig farm, as well as launched side businesses making hats and selling rice. In all, she’s successfully completed 20 loan cycles over the past ten years.
But her best investment, she says, has been in her children’s education. Her younger daughter graduates from college this year with a teaching degree. Her older daughter Amina, also a college graduate, is now working as a Corporate Giving Officer for Opportunity in the Philippines.
“I have been the daughter of a client, and now I am an implementer on the ground,” said Remy. “It's great to see the faces of the people who have invested so much. I want to say to you that what you are doing matters – not just to the families that are receiving the loans, but to their children, and the children after that, who may never know the name of Opportunity International – because they won't be poor anymore, and they won't [need] loans anymore.”
Blue Haven Award
Liesel Pritzker Simmons presented the Blue Haven Initiative Young Visionary Award to Katherine Haley, an Opportunity Governor and Co-Chair of YAO-DC. Katherine received the award for her leadership of the Young Ambassadors for Opportunity community in Washington, DC and for her advocacy for Opportunity among her network. For the past two years, she has been Opportunity’s top fundraiser during the Live Below the Line challenge. An Insight Trip to Nicaragua in 2012 deepened Katherine’s engagement in Opportunity. Katherine currently serves as Assistant for Policy for House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner. In this role, she is responsible for developing policy and coordinating strategies for education, workforce and social issues.
The Alfred Whittaker Founder’s Award was given to David and Donna Allman. The award was presented by Don Whittaker, and it was accepted by David Allman on behalf of himself and his wife Donna. Seven years ago, the Allmans approached Opportunity with the idea of creating a new program in Nicaragua. They started with the premise that even the poorest families have assets to contribute to the development of their community. Thanks to the Allmans’ ingenuity and generous contributions, school libraries are open, churches are repaired, roads are built, and clean water flows through new aqueduct systems. David is Chair of Opportunity International, Nicaragua. In addition, David and Donna are closely involved in the Ambassadors Council.
Weberg Foundation Award
The Weberg Foundation Award went to Mary Lynn and Warren Staley for their significant contributions to Opportunity. Mary Lynn is the former chair of the Governors community. She and Warren, who recently retired as CEO of Cargill, have witnessed the devastating effects of global poverty and know that microfinance is a sustainable solution. In her presentation of the award, Governor Gail Bradley quipped that while the Staleys were with Cargill, no one left the company plane without hearing from Mary Lynn about Opportunity, her admiration for the organization and the possibililties of their own personal involvement. Today, Warren is on Opportunity’s Agriculture Campaign Taskforce and Mary Lynn serves on the Education Campaign Taskforce. The Staley’s three children are also Governors, and they hope to see their seven grandchildren one day following suit.
As recipient of the Women’s Leadership Award presented by Governor Janelle Lassonde, Julie Hindmarsh was recognized for her leadership and philanthropy. In honor of her mother Millie, Julie established “Millie’s Fund,” which has fueled Opportunity’s launch of an education finance program in Tanzania. Millie Hindmarsh was a lifelong advocate for empowering women. In her remarks, Julie said that she “stands on my mom’s shoulders,” and is forever inspired by her mother’s motto, “To teach is to touch a life forever. Teaching is loving.”
Women’s Leadership Award
Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, received the Strategic Partner of the Year Award on behalf of her organization. “It is gratifying for our Foundation to be regarded as a strategic partner by Opportunity International,” Reeta wrote on the Mastercard Foundation’s blog. “It implies we are doing more than achieving the targets of our programs. It implies we are working in a way that enhances the performance of both organizations and creates value for farmers and the rural poor, who are empowered by our programs in Africa.”