International (MNN) — The new Lending Hope to Africa campaign will kick off in 2008. It is a joint effort between Opportunity International and Compassion International.
The five million dollars that Opportunity receives from Compassion will be distributed as micro-loans over a period of five years in five countries. There are already five
banks set up in Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana, South Africa, and Rwanda to handle the loan money. Their aim in the future is to create 16 banks that will allow them to leverage the investments that are made through the campaign.
The majority of the people, 85 percent, who receive the micro-loans are women. "They are very much poverty-stricken, but they have the motivation to pull themselves out of poverty, with their own children and so on," said Peter Thorrington of Opportunity
Each woman who receives a loan is required to meet in a group of 20-30 others in a Trust Group with a loan officer. However, the loan officers do more than advise them about their business. Thorrington said, "Those loan officers do spread the Word of Christ in those meetings, which are opened and closed in prayer. And those clients are aware that Opportunity International is a Christian organization."
One woman's life was transformed by the loans she was given before the Lending Hope to Africa campaign. She had lost her husband and was a left with four children to raise alone. "Her last comment to me was, ‘Now I'm not only going to clothe my children, feed them, and house them. But best of all, believe me, they're going to college,'" said Thorrington.
Loans in the past have been used to purchase young farm animals to raise, increase inventory at
vending stands, purchase a metered telephone, and a clothing business.
Opportunity's goal is to reach 30 million people through these loans, since each person who receives one will likely be supporting a family. That is one out of every twenty people living in Africa on less than two dollars a day.
Though the connection between poverty and HIV/AIDS is difficult to define, the
statistics make it obvious there is a higher possibility of those in poverty contracting HIV. Thorrington says, "A large number of the clients will be people who are threatened by the possibility of AIDS or who are already HIV positive."