Long-time supporters of Opportunity International Australia, Nathalie and Andrew Harding, have a special love story, that all started with Opportunity! Andrew, a barrister, and Nathalie, who works in Equine Assisted Learning, live in Sydney and are married with four children.
Their romance began with an Opportunity fundraising dinner, but things didn’t quite go so smoothly for them on that first date.
Andrew and Nathalie had actually met as teenagers at the train station on their way to school, but it wasn’t until a chance encounter between their mums, who reconnected after almost thirty years, that Andrew and Nathalie saw each other again.
In a major case of worlds colliding, both their mothers were from Wales and had met in the 1960s whilst training to be flight attendants. They lost contact over the years, but both married Australian men, moved to Australia and both had sons called Andrew who attended the same high school and now were both studying Commerce/Law at the University of NSW. The two ladies ran into each other on a train one day and became friends again.
It was during this time that Nathalie and Andrew became reacquainted through their mothers, but they were living very different lifestyles at this point. They sometimes saw each other at church and that’s when Andrew summoned the courage to ask Nathalie out. It was the late 1990s, Andrew was a lawyer, and Nathalie was an actor.
“I was always attracted to Nathalie, but I thought our worlds were just so different,” said Andrew. “She was living quite a wild and bohemian life, wearing hemp clothing and army boots and travelling to feminist rallies around Australia. I was a very conservative person by contrast, working in a big law firm and wearing plaid shirts and boat shoes.”
Andrew had been invited to the inaugural fundraising dinner for Opportunity International Australia and called Nathalie to ask her to be his date.
“I rang her and asked her if she wanted to come to a charity dinner with me for Opportunity,” said Andrew. “After questioning whether Opportunity was involved with the World Bank, she finally agreed!”
The night didn’t quite go to plan for Andrew and Nathalie. Nathalie had been injured whilst learning to ride a motorbike a few days earlier, but not wanting Andrew to know, had left her crutches in the car. Andrew was running late from work, so by the time they found each other and sat down for the dinner, tension was already in the air. Within five minutes at the table, Andrew and Nathalie were embroiled in a political discussion with very different viewpoints!
“Andy had one view, I had another and we got into a massive argument at the table,” said Nathalie. “Then at the dinner a video was shown of the work Opportunity was doing, so we both turned to watch it. Not speaking to each other. Fuming. We were watching and learning about the amazing microfinance work of Opportunity and I suddenly realised that this organisation was pretty cool. But I wasn’t about to let him know that!”
Andrew was also angry and thought Nathalie was being unreasonable, and at the end of the night thought there was no way they could ever be together.
“I said goodbye to Nathalie and we didn’t speak again for six months,” said Andrew.
But one day, six months later, Andrew found himself thinking about Nathalie, and called and asked her out for breakfast. Nathalie agreed, they had a nice breakfast and reconnected, then Nathalie flew out to India the next day for a planned three-month solo trip.
“We communicated the whole time I was away,” said Nathalie. Once she came home, they started dating and have been together ever since.
Nathalie joined Opportunity for an Insight trip to India in 2009.
Over the last 23 years, Andrew and Nathalie have continued to support Opportunity, and stay connected. Nathalie volunteered for Opportunity whilst doing her Masters degree and was also able to travel on an insight trip to India with Opportunity in 2009.
“I was really impressed by the insight trip,” said Nathalie.
It was inspirational to see the daily impact that Opportunity had and to have the privilege of meeting the staff and clients. The clients were honest in discussing their hopes and also some of the ongoing issues for them, such as healthcare"
“A few years later, I remember reading about Opportunity moving resources into healthcare and I deeply appreciated that the decision had come from a direct need expressed by the clients. It helped to remind me that the best outcomes and programs are driven by listening to the clients.”
“It has been very special to have a continued connection with Opportunity over so many years,” said Nathalie. “We really love the development work, its basis, structure and growth and of course the fact that the Opportunity dinner was the beginning for us as a couple. A crazy beginning but with a great result!”
Nathalie Harding and fellow traveller Penny Chadwick on their insight trip in 2009
Opportunity has always been a part of the Harding family story. “Through all the years and the ups and downs of family life, and all the variations of income, it’s been important to us to keep a financial commitment to Opportunity each year,” said Andrew.
"We love what Opportunity does and their faith-based foundation. And the relationship managers have been so committed in keeping us connected,” said Nathalie.
“And part of it is because it’s tax deductible!” added Andrew jokingly.
Recently the family have discussed the impact of giving to Opportunity as Warwick Aubin, NSW State Manager, outlined the number of clients and programs helped by the funds given over the years.
We were amazed by the impact of consistent giving. If we had kept those funds, it never would have reached as many people or helped to transform people’s lives as it has through Opportunity’s programs and recycling of loans. So how could we not give?”