The Opportunity Challenge is an innovative fundraising challenge aimed at school students to empower and educate them about fighting global poverty.
Starting with a small loan from their parents, students are encouraged to start their own micro-business and make their money grow. With the income they earn from their business they then pay back the original loan and donate the profits to Opportunity so that together, they can help families in developing countries start their own small businesses, earn incomes, and leave poverty behind!
Balcombe Grammar School on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, is one school participating in The Opportunity Challenge. For the last seven years, Balcombe has run an innovative, authentic and highly experiential Pop Up Year 9 curriculum program for their students, as their own iteration of The Opportunity Challenge.
The program allows the students to develop practical skills in innovation and entrepreneurship, product design, creative arts, business planning, customer service, financial literacy and problem solving. The students are trained as baristas to operate a student-run cafe, as well as creating their own products or services to sell at a quarterly community night market.
The students are given a $30 loan from their parents, and they then use that to develop a product or service that they can sell at a ‘market night’ - an event that the Balcombe community has embraced. The students donate 30 per cent of their income from market night to Opportunity as a ‘company tax’, they pay back their $30 loan, and they keep the remaining profit.
Alan Wharton is the Humanities Faculty Leader at Balcombe Grammar coordinating the program. “On a night market in March this year, the students raised another $1,000 for Opportunity and they walked away with a feeling of incredible pride and excitement at what they had achieved,” said Alan.
The parallels between the students’ small businesses and the similar philosophy of a small microfinance loan being used to start up a small business and generate funds to alleviate poverty, is not lost on the students, and the school is very proud that over the last seven years it has raised over $21,000 for Opportunity.
Year 9 student Taj Carver wrote songs during the lockdowns last year and created his own CD and album cover for the night market, which he then sold at the market, raising $217.
“I love how practical and hands on this program is,” said Taj. “We get to have total student choice over the design and creation of the products we make, and it is wonderful to experience that excitement of getting that first sale at the night market after all the time and effort we have put into our ideas.
All these skills will be so important to us as we start preparing for our senior years in school, and we’re able to use the experience on our resumes as we look for part-time jobs while we are studying. I’m also so excited that I’ve now launched my track on Spotify and I’m thinking of pursuing a music career.”- Taj, Year 9 student
Fellow student Leah Reaper made hand-sewn pillows and bibs over the nine-week program, and made $568 selling them at the night market.
"I now feel so much more confident in being able to set up my own business and I also feel so proud that through our own hard work and enjoyment we will also be able to make such a difference in the lives of others through our donation to Opportunity,” said Leah.
Alan said the school chose Opportunity as the beneficiary for the donations, as its microfinance philosophy closely matches their own.
“For a small initial loan investment, an enterprising individual can create a small business which generates income for themselves, they can repay the loan and feel empowered,” said Alan.
The success of the program has gone beyond the school grounds, with a past student creating his business of selling abstract drone photographs over the Mornington Peninsula. After selling out his photos on the Market Day, he expanded the concept and went on to sell his photos at local weekend markets and now has an online business and a future career path in photography.
In Term 3 of 2022, three other Melbourne schools, Fintona Girls School, Camberwell Boys Grammar and Canterbury Girls Secondary College, will be participating in The Opportunity Challenge. These schools will come together to work in small groups to plan and implement their income-generating business ideas, mimicking the microfinance model. Once the students have repaid their small start-up loans, their profits will be donated to Opportunity.
The Opportunity Challenge was originally called Projec10, and the concept was developed by a small group of Opportunity Ambassadors in Melbourne. They were passionate about engaging young Australians in social justice and entrepreneurship, and empowering and equipping them to be long-term change-makers in their world.
If your school would like to get involved in The Opportunity Challenge and raise money for Opportunity whilst teaching students about poverty, international development, microfinance and business, we’d love to hear from you. Visit our Opportunity Challenge page for more information.