GPO Box 4487
Sydney NSW 2001 , Level 4, 220 George Street Sydney NSW 2000
Telephone: 1800 812 164
© 2019 Opportunity International AustraliaABN 83 003 805 043
When Opportunity Ambassador Suzzanne Laidlaw thinks of poverty, she thinks of a mother unable to provide her children with essentials, unable to protect, feed and shelter them. However, she is hopeful. “There is a way out of the current situation for families living in poverty,” she says, “a shining light no matter how far away that shows there is a chance their life can improve.”
Suzzanne’s first encounter with Opportunity came after reading founder David Bussau’s book. “It touched my core,” she says. “I thought, when I retire I’m going to do something with this organisation.” Years later, she met Opportunity’s former Marketing and Communications Director, Ant Clark, who asked her to be an Opportunity Ambassador.
“I’m not rich yet,” Suzzanne said. “I don’t have lots of money or time to spend,”
“It doesn’t matter,” Ant responded. Every little bit counts.”
Looking back, Suzzanne emphasises how a small donation can have such a huge impact on someone’s life and carries this philosophy in her ambassadorship.
As a business coach, Opportunity’s values mean a lot to her. “I’m leveraging off my love of business and my love for seeing others succeed,” she says. “Opportunity is enabling me to have a greater reach with small businesses, which is helping empower people worldwide.”
“I’m also involved in mentoring other businesses, so I love the way Opportunity, on top of providing loans to entrepreneurs, is actually mentoring them in that journey as well.”
Suzzanne knows how difficult it may be to donate when raising a family and paying the mortgage but encourages other Opportunity supporters to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising. She hosts business workshops and events, and together with her husband, holds yoga classes at home—they donate the entry fee to Opportunity. “We sometimes underestimate the difference a small amount from us can make in somebody else’s life.”
In the future, Suzzanne hopes to go overseas with Opportunity on an insight trip. “An insight trip has been on my goal list for the last few years,” she says. “My dream is to go on one in India one day.”
When Vanessa Geraghty McGann heard about Opportunity International Australia at a business networking event, she was blown away. She was looking for a charity to support through her business, Vivacity Marketing, which she launched in July 2017. “I think Opportunity is perfect for me,” says Vanessa. “I’m a woman in business, I want to give back to women in business, Opportunity’s story speaks to me. I guess being a mother myself, I want to help other mothers and their children.”
“Women are the ones who make change happen,” Vanessa says. “We’re doers, we can find internal strength, even when the situation is awful. Women are built to be strong, resilient - I believe that’s why Opportunity helps women.”
Vanessa says there’s two parts to getting children out of poverty – “The first involves their mothers having the opportunity to build little businesses so they can afford to send their kids to school. The second is having good quality schools, so kids can be educated, so they can go on to university, set up their own businesses.”
“What really resonates with me is that the women Opportunity helps may have several children, there may be no man in the family, they may have no way out, their situations may be hopeless. So, giving these women hope, showing their kids there is another way to live, you can be entrepreneurs, you can have a business, you can pay back a loan, borrow more, you can build your business over time - I guess that’s what I really like about the way Opportunity provides a hand up rather than a hand out.”
Vanessa gives to Opportunity every month, plans to increase the amount she donates as her business grows, giving every time she secures a new client. “Generosity is an important part of my life journey,” Vanessa says. “Generosity means giving back when you’ve been fortunate, blessed with a good upbringing, a good education, good income - to give back to those who haven’t had these opportunities,” she says. “Kids living in poverty want to be educated, get ahead in life, but they often don’t have the opportunity to do that. So, generosity to me is helping people who are less fortunate to succeed, do whatever that want in life, give them options.”
“My greatest hope is that we eradicate world poverty in the next five to ten years by joining together to make it happen,” she says. “I want to be able to help do that, raise awareness for Opportunity to get more people involved. Many small business owners and entrepreneurs want to give back, they’re looking for a cause. Opportunity is a really good cause that resonates with a lot of entrepreneurs. My message to other entrepreneurs is: “Give as much as you can, as your business grows, increase your donations. Spread the word to other business owners as well.”
Silver Chef CEO Damien Guivarra believes businesses play a crucial role in the world, that they’re in a position to help solve the world’s biggest problems. “Silver Chef is a better business because we’re driven by a purpose beyond profits, we’re successful because that purpose underpins everything we do.”
Damien says one of the reasons for Silver Chef’s success is its employees. “People who are aligned to our values and purpose are attracted to us,” Damien says. “We have a rigorous recruitment process, it works for us, we recruit good people who share our passion, who live and breathe our values, who are aligned with our purpose.”
Silver chef’s main shareholder is the English Family Foundation, which donates dividends from its Silver Chef shares to Opportunity. Most of the Silver Chef team salary sacrifice – donating a portion of their salary to Opportunity, and many of its customers donate a dollar a week. Silver Chef has a department that coordinates fundraising initiatives like raffles and events, and an Opportunity scholarship program, where four members of the Silver Chef team are selected to go to India each year with Opportunity to meet some of the families they are helping to break the cycle of poverty. Silver Chef also provides pro bono office space in Brisbane to Opportunity.
“Silver Chef staff love our partnership with Opportunity,” Damien says. “Feedback from them is amazing, it motivates them. They love having a strong purpose, making a difference in the world. Attracting the best people to our team gives us a competitive edge which is difficult for other businesses to imitate.”
Damien believes Silver Chef staff are caring – “They passionately care about our partnership with Opportunity,” he says. “If you want to reach out to millennials, you need to give them a platform to change the world – they’re happier, more engaged, so presumably driving more sales, more customers, more profits for shareholders and more funds for Opportunity. It’s a virtuous cycle,” he added.
Megan Perston and her partner Ken French used to have a hospitality business in Sydney – they ran a café and corporate catering business. Around 15 years ago, Opportunity International Australia asked their company to cater for a supporter Christmas party, then sent them some background information about its work in developing countries. After reading it, Megan and Ken thought: “This sounds really amazing, quite different from anything we’ve ever seen before.” Megan and Ken agreed to cater the Christmas party with food at cost, provide the waiting staff for free.
Megan and Ken were blown away by how many supporters thanked them for their support during the party, including Opportunity’s founder, David Bussau. “We fell in love with Opportunity and its supporters that night,” Megan says. “What an amazing group of people – they made us feel part of the family immediately. And, of course, we got to hear the speeches and what everybody was saying about Opportunity. We decided then and there: “These are the people for us.”
The next day, an Opportunity staff member phoned Megan, thanked her and Ken for their support. Megan’s response was immediate: “We really enjoyed it. It was a pleasure, we really want to get involved, what can we do?” The Opportunity staff member said: “We have our staff Christmas party next week, what do you reckon?” Megan offered to cater the party for free. Megan and Ken met Opportunity’s team at the party, were “delighted with how wonderful they all were, we felt part of the whole evening - not just the caterers.” Megan and Ken have been committed to Opportunity ever since.
Megan says generosity underpins the couple’s life journey – “All of our hard work has a greater purpose than just making profits. It gives us an added dimension, adds meaning to our life, by doing something good for other people who didn’t win the lottery we won by being born and living in Australia. Generosity is when you share what you have with other people who are less fortunate, who haven’t got what you’ve got. It’s being thankful for what you’ve got and aspiring to do more, knowing that success in life is not through material things, but through using those material things to help others.”
“As business people, we love the idea that the donations Opportunity receives is lent to families, so they can build businesses, earn incomes, lift themselves out of poverty. We love the idea that the loans are repaid and recycled, providing a long-term solution to help families break the cycle of poverty. We also love that Opportunity partners with local organisations on the ground in each country, partners who understand the local culture, issues, needs of the families living there.”
Megan and Ken’s current business, Local Appliance Rentals, is a franchise group with about 115 franchisees around Australia. Their franchisees also give to Opportunity and Megan and Ken match their donations.
“I think the Opportunity model is so great,” says Megan. “There’s basically nothing I can think of that’s more effective than supporting Opportunity.”
When Opportunity supporter Samuel Ong, a podiatrist from Perth, thinks of families living in poverty, he sees a lack of opportunity: “It means someone doesn’t have the means, the chance to change their life,” he says. “I want to give families opportunities to build their own businesses, have better lives.”
Samuel says he’s a recipient as well as a giver of generosity. “In all aspects of my life, from when I was born, my family, mum, dad, all throughout my school days, my church life and career,” he says, “I guess I’ve always had really generous people in my life, seeing how they impacted my life, I feel like I could do the same for someone else.”
“Generosity to me is an attitude, a lifestyle,” Samuel explains. “For some people, generosity is an action, but for me, if its seen that way, you always have to think about it, whereas if you make it a lifestyle, then that’s your default and you don’t have to necessarily think about it unless it’s something out of the norm.”
Samuel likes the way Opportunity International Australia helps families lift themselves out of poverty as it aligns with both his personal and organisational values. “I greatly enjoy business,” Samuel says, “so to hear that Opportunity gives someone else an opportunity to have their own business makes me feel good to be able to give to that. Not only from the point of view of how a microbusiness impacts a family’s life in terms of income, but there might be someone out there who enjoys business as much as I do, so giving them the opportunity to have their own business brings me great joy as well. From an organisational point of view, the vision of my business, Mustard Seed Podiatry, is to see potential fulfilled, so that really aligns with what Opportunity does.”
Opportunity’s health programs also align with Samuel’s interest in health. “If families are unwell, then nothing else really matters. Kids can’t go to school, adults can’t run their businesses, earn a living. So, Opportunity’s health programs help families to be healthy, they enable them to focus on their businesses, break the cycle of poverty.”
“Equally, Opportunity’s education programs are important. I’d like to see everyone given a chance to succeed, to have the lives they want. That can only happen if everyone has equal access to education.”
Samuel’s message to Opportunity supporters is: “Keep doing what you’re doing, keep supporting Opportunity. Together we can change the world.”
To Opportunity supporter Ian Airey, generosity means having a sense of the other, trying to understand the other person, trying to enrich their lives. He says it’s about putting yourself in other people’s shoes, seeing things from their perspective, understanding their joys, empathising with their hurts.
Ian says through our generosity we can be a catalyst to improve the lives of families living in poverty: “Poverty can be financial, material, spiritual. When you look at it globally, there are millions of families who don’t have access to water, food or sanitary facilities. Children who have no opportunity for education, families who can’t do anything to improve their health.”
Ian learnt about Opportunity when he watched an episode of Australian Story featuring David Bissau. He wrote a letter to Opportunity Ambassador Allan English about his interest in Opportunity, went to a function at Allan’s home. “That’s how I got involved with Opportunity,” Ian says. “The way my donation is recycled, its efficiency, captivated me.”
Ian says he likes Opportunity’s health leader program in India. Opportunity’s partner in India – Healing Fields Foundation - educates women to be health leaders who then educate their local communities about preventative health and hygiene – like building toilets, washing hands, giving birth in hospitals. “It’s a good model, it’s really important,” Ian says. “You have to educate families to look after themselves, it’s really good when they’re empowered with the knowledge and tools to live healthier lives.”
“I was born into a family of privilege - my parents were of average means, they weren’t wealthy, but my grandparents and parents believed in the immense value of a good education,” he says. “My family therefore had the privilege of education and that makes all the difference. I like Opportunity’s education program, where families are given loans, so they can afford to send their children to school. It makes a huge difference in the lives of the next generation. They can break the cycle of poverty that has trapped their parents, grandparents and generations before them.”
“I’ve had a wonderful life journey and I want to share what I have with other families who are less fortunate,” Ian says. “I’ve seen how professional and respectful Opportunity is and if you’re thinking of giving a dollar to something, you won’t get a bigger return on investment that giving it to Opportunity.”
To Greg Keady, an Opportunity International Australia supporter, generosity of spirit is more than just giving time and resources. “It starts within a yearning and desire to put others before yourself, to give consideration to those with greater needs,” says Greg. “Generosity is not only a mindset it should be fundamental to your DNA.”
Greg believes as Australians blessed with an abundance, we have an obligation to share with families who are less fortunate than us. “Both planned and random generosity should be part of our life journey. My journey began when I was young, with my parents supporting children in developing countries through the Church and associated charitable associations. We had photos of families stuck on the refrigerator that my parents would communicate with and help us understand what was happening in other parts of the world. In 1982 my parents adopted my younger brother Matthew from the Philippines when he was 10-months-old. Travelling to the Philippines as a nine- year-old to bring my brother home, witnessing how to live outside my own existence, was an incredible eye opener for me. I could see and feel poverty around me, the despair and lack of hope.”
“I really love the notion of free will to make decisions and to have influence over your own future. Opportunity gives families living in poverty the ability to make decisions, to be able to influence their own future. I love Opportunity’s concept of a hand up – the notion of giving tools to families to enable them to use their innate gifts. It has so much strength and power attached to it. It’s giving opportunity, which is a very powerful mechanism. I admire the concept of giving families small loans to build businesses, the sustainability of Opportunity’s business model because loans are repaid.”
“I greatly admire the honesty and integrity of Opportunity’s people and processes. It comes back to Opportunity’s values and transparency. Looking at the financial world, costs are important to understand. Opportunity has a good understanding of its business operations, it gives donors a lot of confidence and trust that there are good people leading it.”
“My greatest hope is that Australians develop a deeper sense of obligation and duty to think beyond their own existence, to be generous. Provide the opportunity for families living in poverty to learn and to grow. The collective value of opportunity is very powerful.”
To Hayley Morris, Director of Opportunity supporter, the Morris Family Foundation, poverty means a lack of choice, being stuck, unable to break free. Her family’s foundation is committed to helping NGOs achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and likes the way Opportunity gives women in developing countries the tools to free themselves from poverty. The Foundation also likes the way Opportunity measures and reports its impact in the lives of families making the journey out of poverty. ” It gives us confidence in the work Opportunity is doing,” she says.
“The Morris Family Foundation wants to give women living in poverty the ability to control their own future,” Hayley says, “to have the choices they didn’t have before when they were stuck because of the boundaries imposed by poverty.”
“As a family foundation, we are set up to look after other families,” Hayley says. “We help women in developing nations because they are the ones you can rely on. The men are often away, and the women are left to look after the children, earn additional income.”
Hayley believes it’s important for international development to take a holistic approach – to view poverty in terms of the day-to-day impact on the lives of families - instead of just approaching it from an economic perspective. This means providing interventions such as Opportunity’s health leader program, where women are trained to provide health and hygiene education in their communities to reduce preventable diseases, improve the health of adults and children so they are well enough to work or go to school.
She’s also a great believer in quality education: “In the past there has been too much focus on just getting children to school, without looking at the quality of that schooling,” Hayley says. “Education for girls is especially important, it gives them a sense of hope, gives them the choices and tools to move out of the constraints of poverty.”
To Hayley, generosity means much more than giving financial resources, it’s about giving your time and of yourself. “I think it’s hugely important that we go outside of ourselves,” she says.
Hayley’s greatest hope is that as a society we gain a broad understanding of the limitations that our planet has and the way we’re doing things is destructive, eating into our future. “We have to understand how reliant we are on a sustainable planet,” she says. “So, I hope there’s enough of a shift to get people to design an economic and political system that promotes the planet instead of destroying it.”
During the last two decades, Opportunity International Australia Council member and Ambassador, and English Family Foundation Founder and Chairman, Allan English, visited several of the families Opportunity helps to lift themselves out of poverty. His first trip to the Philippines 17 years ago left him with an indelible image of a woman scavenging through a mountain of rubbish in metro Manila. This image has driven his passion to help families like hers break the cycle of poverty.
Allan recently visited families in Varanasi in India. “It was so good to be back in India to see first-hand the impacts of Opportunity’s work,” Allan says. “The women we’re helping to create their own businesses reminds me why we do what we do and how collectively, we’re making an extraordinary difference in the lives of these families.”
On his trip to Varanasi, Allan was fascinated by the business model families use for raising buffalo. “A lady told me she took out a loan from Opportunity, then paid it back over a two-year period. Each day, the buffalo produces eight litres of milk, two litres are used by her family and she sell the remaining six litres, so in three days of the week she pays off her loan, then in the other days she earns income to feed her family and send her children to school. After two years, she owns the buffalo, so she takes out another loan to buy a second one. This time, she pays it back in 12 months, then she progressively adds another buffalo to her herd each year. What a terrific outcome for a woman who started out in such poverty!”
Allan says on this recent trip he loved seeing health leaders educating families in their communities about health, hygiene and nutrition and the way it helped everyone live healthier lives, enabling children to go to school and adults to work to earn the living they need to break the cycle of poverty.
“I loved seeing on this trip how Opportunity is much more than a provider of microfinance loans,” Allan says. “Opportunity is making a bigger and broader impact in the lives of the families it’s helping, and it can only be done because of Opportunity’s generous supporters.”
“Each overseas visit with Opportunity reinforces my belief in its work in the disadvantaged sectors of our global village,” Allan says. “Opportunity’s impact is all about empowerment and dignity. Opportunity provides access to ﬁnance to help women entrepreneurs create sustainable businesses. Opportunity is one of the most extraordinary transformation agents. Charity by way of a gift can’t do that. Dignity and transformation come from the inner knowledge of Opportunity’s loan recipients that they have changed their lives through their own efforts.”
“I really like the way Opportunity is continually developing its area of inﬂuence, using microﬁnance loan groups as a vehicle to provide ﬁnancial literacy training as well as health and nutrition programs - to improve the health of communities and reduce their medical costs. Opportunity is now moving into education funding in the form of school fee loans, so the children of its loan recipients can go to school, and it provides loans to school proprietors, so they can improve the quality of children’s educational experience.”
Allan believes everyone has the capacity to be generous. “If you can afford it, you should give ﬁnancially, but if you have financial constraints, volunteering is an option. From a personal perspective, I know I’ve been blessed with resources and skills that I can channel into beneﬁting my fellow man. For me to feel aligned and authentic, a happy person, my actions must align with these values.”
Allan says he’s enjoyed being a student of philosophy, learning from the wise men and women who’ve gone before us. “Every spiritual leader point to the importance of generosity as a keystone to leading a happy life. The joy is not just in the act of giving, but the connection you make with very special human beings who are inspired to dedicate their life for the beneﬁt of others. I feel honoured to share the space with Opportunity - a global tribe of changemakers who are creating ripples every day.”
“As a philanthropist, I’ve seen and funded many different initiatives, but Opportunity is the one that gives the highest rating for transformation of individuals and their families. As the loans are repaid and recycled the fundraising cost is extraordinarily low.”
Opportunity International Australia Ambassador Kirsty Munro was surprised when one day her small son said: “We don’t give enough money to poor people.” Kirsty and her husband Anthony had been Opportunity supporters for many years, but they hadn’t thought to involve their three little boys, Lachlan, David and Angus. “We realised we needed to include the children in our giving, so they could learn about generosity, and contribute in their own way,” says Kirsty, who juggles a full-time role as a public servant with parenting and fundraising.
“We talked to the children the next day, and they were excited. They came up with several good suggestions of ways we could raise funds for Opportunity, deciding they’d ask people passing by our house on their way to the local farmer’s markets, whether they would like to pick mulberries from the tree out the front, and then make a donation to Opportunity. They displayed Opportunity magazines and flyers on the table to show people what Opportunity does, and they told stories about the families Opportunity serves. I think people are comfortable with giving money to young children who could otherwise be inside watching television. You’re also going to have a better return on investment if you’ve got something they can be involved with, such as picking mulberries, rather than asking strangers out of the blue to donate to an organisation they may know nothing about.”
Kirsty’s family looks beyond the privileged life they live as Australians, to their place in the world. They believe we have an obligation to help our neighbours, whether that is the family next door or one in the Philippines. Kirsty says: “I’ve always been interested in people from different cultures and language backgrounds, and so felt a strong sense of affinity with the women Opportunity supports overseas. We share the same planet, there’s nothing that really differentiates us except that as Australians we have so many opportunities. And I just feel it’s our obligation to give what we can to help others have a better life.”
“Generosity means everything to me. It shouldn’t be something you do lightly. It’s about being selfless, being reminded of a time when someone was generous to you and paying that forward to others. I think it’s so important to invest in others. Giving your time, your effort, your experience...”
“When I hear the word “poverty”, I think of children who are hungry, who are hoping to have more than one meal a day, of families wanting to provide for their children. When I picture poverty, I think of people who have not been given the chances they deserve in life. They haven’t had the opportunity to begin lifting themselves out of poverty, they haven’t had a chance because of factors beyond their control. When women can get access to finance, they can start taking control of their own lives, and then have the ability to make decisions for themselves. But the poorest people don’t have the luxury of choice. We have an obligation to help them, we need to give these families choices. By doing so, we provide opportunities to the younger generations abroad, so that they can have a life with more choices than their parents had.”
Kirsty believes it’s important to empower women in developing countries to help them invest in their families and the life of their communities. “When women receive money for the work they do it doesn’t just go into their pockets. Women provide for their children and their family. Without Opportunity, the women would not have otherwise been able to have opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. I love that we can create opportunities for them to invest in great ideas, invest in future generations, and improve the quality of life for their families and communities.”
“Australians juggling the challenges of work, paying the mortgage and bringing up children often feel they don’t have anything left to give to others. As a society, I think we should think about this differently. It’s important to give to Opportunity, and to educate others about Opportunity’s work in developing countries. This is one way we can help the next generation – we want to help our children grow up to be the best people they can be. We support Opportunity because our family can make a difference to other families through our donations and fundraising. Opportunity’s mission to help families free themselves from poverty really resonates with us.”
“I hope everyone can be lifted out of poverty in my lifetime”
Kate Hannan lives in the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne with her husband and two teenage children - Ruby and Olly. She loves teaching English as a second language, travel, walking in the Ranges with her friends and spending precious time with her family. She also loves working on her Spanish and listening to a wide range of music with different beats from Africa and Spain.
Kate and her family support a Community Impact Fund in Santo Nino in the Philippines. Kate says: “‘community’ means something to me. When you say ‘community’, I think about my local community and us helping each other out. Being aware of the people around you, supporting each other. We have a close community in the Ranges and there’s a strong community at my children’s school. Community means having someone to turn to in times of need. It may also be financial support, time, working bees, giving practical help in whatever form is needed.”
Kate decided to support a Community Impact Fund in the Philippines because: “It’s so close to Australia – it’s almost local. It feels like we are helping our neighbours. The microloans families in Santo Nino receive from Opportunity are such a pragmatic way to help them make practical changes in their lives.”
Kate’s a contributor and likes to bring about change in the lives of others. For many years, Kate volunteered for World Vision, giving talks in schools and working in the youth team during the 40 Hour Famine. She says: “The calling in my heart is to be useful, use my talents to add something to the world, to bring about improvements. I grew up in a Catholic family, so Christian values are at the core of my being. I feel incredibly fortunate in my life – life is a real lottery – my kids could have been born into extreme poverty somewhere but they were born into an affluent society. Because of this, I feel I have a duty to do something useful to help others … find my way of helping out – whether that’s in my local community or the global community – or both.”
“I feel like if you have the capacity to help other people you should do so in whatever way you can. Grasp the opportunity to be generous and make a difference. It can take any form - being generous with your money, your time, your skills, your talents, your knowledge.”
“I really like Opportunity’s focus on microloans – it’s ultimately the ‘feed a man a fish a day or teach a man to fish’ idea playing out. I also like the way donations are recycled, used again and again. It’s an effective use of donations, good stewardship.”
“My greatest hope is the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved in my lifetime. I hope everyone is lifted out of poverty, everyone gains access to life’s basic necessities. You don’t have to be a major contributor to make this happen. Any money you give can go a long way. Whether it’s $20 or $50 - some people feel that a small amount doesn’t make a difference - but every dollar helps. I would say giving to Opportunity is such a practical way to make a difference in the lives of families who are living in poverty,” she added.
Opportunity Ambassador, Roslyn Foo and founder of brand agency Glamorazzi, is well known for the Dining For Charity gala dinners she masterminds to raise funds for Opportunity International Australia. In August 2017, she staged the four original Iron Chefs from Japan at the Sydney Opera House to cook up a feast as a fundraiser and she has exciting plans for future events.
Roslyn believes in the motto: ‘Give and you shall receive’, believes that giving is much more than making a donation: “By giving, I am not only referring to money – there are so many people with amazing skills and passion that can benefit charities, no one is too small to make a difference. The chefs who cook for my charity dinners volunteer their time, as well as the kitchenhands, photographers and more. We deliver an epic show around the celebrity chefs and their creations so that guests are happy to pay a premium for the experience,’ she says.
Roslyn migrated to Australia as a student when she was 19, and struggled with the many challenges faced by people new to Australia. "My personal journey, as a woman, a migrant, an Asian and an entrepreneur, has been a challenge to breakthrough," Roslyn says, "but my troubles fade into insignificance in comparison to the women Opportunity serves in developing countries. I’m glad I’ve always had Opportunity to keep my mind focused on doing things for other people rather than worrying about my own setbacks. I now believe even more in what Opportunity is doing."
"I’d encourage other supporters to go on an Insight Trip with Opportunity, to meet the families they are helping to build new lives and create better futures for their children. I’m particularly committed to helping mothers in developing countries, am keen to meet them when I travel with Opportunity to India. It’s helpful for a donor to really understand how their donation will be used, what the impact it will have on the lives of families living in poverty. It’s so important for supporters to see first-hand the difference they are making."
A social business that showcases the confidence and unique beauty of women
Liz is known for pushing herself well beyond her comfort zone. When she was 23, Liz taught science and maths in the Kalahari Desert, living in a remote village a two-day drive along a sand trail from the closest village. Poverty was a fact of life. The village in which Liz lived lacked electricity, telephones, toilets. It had one village standpipe to provide water. The water was not safe to drink and needed to be boiled as she learned (the hard way). Families lacked choice. They were trapped in circumstances beyond their control, vulnerable to the impact of cyclical drought on crops and livestock, often unable to provide for their most basic needs and those of their loved ones.
Teaching children in the Kalahari for two years fuelled Liz’s passion to make poverty history. “I want to live in a world where no man, woman or child struggles to access food, clean drinking water, toilets,” says Liz. “A world where no girl or woman is sold into slavery. A world where everyone has opportunities to access education, work, a safe place to live.
Over the years, Liz lived on several continents and kick-started and successfully ran strategy consulting and fitness businesses. Her latest venture, Journe Australia, is shaking up the world of luxury swimwear. Handcrafted in Australia, the swimwear is made from Italian lycra handwoven from recycled plastic and discarded fishing nets retrieved from the ocean, with five percent of its sales revenue donated to Opportunity International Australia to support the training of women in India to be health leaders in their community.
“Journe is a business for women, run by women,” says Liz. “As well as caring for the environment, Journe supports female entrepreneurs in developing countries, supports their training as health leaders, enables them to access clean water and toilets in their communities. Our swimwear showcases the confidence and unique beauty of women, while helping women in developing countries gain confidence, dignity and respect. We’re deeply conscious of our social purpose, it’s at the heart of our business, drives all that we do.”
“As an entrepreneur I can relate to female entrepreneurs in developing countries. Being an entrepreneur means inevitably you take a leap of faith in yourself. You look out for and embrace opportunities. You need to understand your customers’ pain points, provide them with products that address those pain points. It’s an exciting but terrifying journey!”
“I’m inspired by people who’ve overcome challenging circumstances – be they financial, physical, emotional. I’m immensely inspired by female entrepreneurs in developing countries who’ve overcome unimaginable hardship, women who train to be health leaders who help families in their communities improve their health through simple things like hand washing, building toilets, using sanitary napkins. In reaching out to other families, these women demonstrate a generosity of spirit we can only aspire to.”
“I believe generosity means being a blessing to others in personal ways that are meaningful to them. It flows from gratitude from what you’ve been given and a desire to share it with others. It’s a habit I endeavour to practise daily – I try to be generous with my time, my praise, as well as financially. Generosity’s not something you do when you have an abundance – it’s in giving when you’re feeling most impoverished – emotionally, physically, financially.”
“I admire the way Opportunity gives a hand up to families, gives them the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty, bring about change in their communities. I love Opportunity’s model of empowering others to change the circumstances in which they live. I admire Bebi, a mother of two daughters in India who trained to be a health leader in her community. Bebi helped hundreds of families in her community build toilets and she received a small loan from Opportunity to set up a business making sanitary napkins. Through her business, she’s meeting the needs of her daughters and in so doing, meeting a pressing need in her community for sanitary napkins.”
“What sets Opportunity apart is that it empowers women like Bebi to bring about change in their own lives, in the lives of their own families, in the wider community. Through Opportunity, women like Bebi experience the joy and dignity of providing for themselves. That’s inspiring!”
Opportunity Ambassador Chris Bailey trekked 4,300 km in 2016, raising over $120,000 for Opportunity International Australia. Since then, he’s been inspiring Opportunity supporters with stories from his epic adventure as well as settling into an entry level role at NAB.
Chris says the trek solidified for him an appreciation for simple things: “It gave me the opportunity to breathe, be present, appreciate natural beauty and just some of the simplest pleasures and joys that life has to offer,” Chris says. “The trek put life into perspective, it was really fruitful in helping me to reprioritise, make sure I don’t lose sight of what’s most important in life.”
Reflecting on his greatest learning from the trek, Chris says through facing up to the many challenges he experienced on his journey, he realised the extraordinary depth of human resilience. “Since the trek, I don’t let challenges overwhelm me,” Chris says. “I have a newfound confidence that I can now deal with any situation.”
Generosity is a core aspect of Chris’s value system. “I break down generosity into three T’s,” Chris says. “Time, talent and treasure. If you give generously in each of these three facets, you have serious potential to have a major impact. Ultimately, sincere generosity often comes down to the spirit of the individual who’s giving, whether it be time, talent or treasure, sincere generosity comes from the heart the individual adopts when they give, and I think that’s where real value comes from it.”
“Opportunities present themselves to be generous every day,” Chris says. “It could be generosity in a relationship or generosity to a stranger, generosity in the way you speak with a work colleague. I think generosity is something all of us are called to live up to - it presents itself in unique challenges every day, it’s an offering, every day you’re presented with opportunities to live up to that calling in your own community.”
Chris first heard of Opportunity while doing his commerce and finance degree. “I was really inspired about the potential Opportunity has to make a significant impact,” Chris says, “obviously terms like dignity and purpose come to mind when considering the impact of microfinance, but I just think it’s really innovative.”
“I believe as a society we need to increase consciousness about poverty,” Chris says. “We have a duty, an obligation, to do something about. It’s an injustice we must address at a societal level.”
“I think everyone has the opportunity to embrace philanthropy, make it your own,” Chris says. “The great thing about microfinance is the leveraging of funds means that small donations have the potential to make a tremendous impact. So, it effectively creates the opportunity for anyone, no matter how healthy your bank balance is, to become a philanthropist. Beyond that, I think it’s important, especially while you’re young, to get into the habit of giving. Making it a habit ensures it’s a part of your everyday life. I think we all have a duty of care for our neighbours.”
Opportunity Ambassador Shayla Prescott is a fourth-year psychology student at Curtin University in Perth. In her spare time, she volunteers at AutismWest as an assistant group leader and Telethon Kids Institute as a research assistant.
Shayla initially became involved with Opportunity at the beginning of 2017 through the John Curtin Leadership Academy (JCLA) at Curtin University. JCLA is a leadership program that gives students opportunities to develop leadership skills by working on community projects. When Shayla heard about Opportunity’s work, she was amazed with its social impact: “It opened my eyes to the potential Opportunity has to help families break the cycle of poverty,” she says. “Opportunity makes a real difference in families” lives.”
Shayla loves Opportunity’s health program because it helps families live healthier lives, so they can work, earn a living, look after their families. “Money is fantastic to help families lift themselves out of poverty, but it’s not a long-term solution if the women are too sick to work or are not able to do anything with the money. Therefore, targeting health, making sure families are healthy, bolsters the impact of the loans Opportunity provides.”
“To me poverty is a lack of necessities that I take for granted. This includes no clean water, little to no food, no hygiene facilities, lack of education and health services,” Shayla says. “I want to help families living in poverty, so a group of us put on a fundraiser, a Bollywood themed cocktail party, raising $2400 for Opportunity.”
Shayla believes generosity is giving to those who will most benefit from it. “Generosity is not the amount you give, but the why - it must be for the genuine reason of wanting to help, not to benefit yourself,” she says. “I give when I can. In a sense, it’s not through funds now as I’m still a student, but through my time and effort. I fit generosity into my life journey through volunteering for things I’m passionate about - autism, children and poverty.”
“We must embrace every opportunity to be generous, give to families living in poverty, so they too may experience the opportunities we have every day, she added.
As an Opportunity supporter, medical recruitment consultancy Alecto Australia is helping families in two communities in Asia lift themselves out of poverty. ‘Our business is committed to helping the community,’ Megan Lewis, an Alecto business manager, says. ‘We’ve all been blessed in different ways, with people helping us in both our professional and personal lives, we love the opportunity to be able to pass that on.’
‘Alecto has always been involved in charity, wanting to help people who are less fortunate than us. We’re incredibly grateful to live in an amazing country, have so many opportunities. We want to be able to share opportunities with others who don’t have them.’
The communities Alecto supports are in Pingit (Philippines) and Watupuda (Indonesia). Families in Pingit and Watupuda earn meagre incomes from agriculture, but they face much more hardship than just a lack of money. They rely on water from a few community wells and water pumps so struggle to access clean water, especially during droughts. This can contribute to poor hygiene and several preventable diseases like diarrhoea.
Health services are limited in Pingit and Watupuda, with few trained staff and scarce medical facilities, equipment or medicines. Many families don’t have a toilet, which poses a safety problem, particularly for young girls. There is only one primary school in Watupuda and many families can’t afford to pay the school fees and travel costs to send their children to secondary school. This leaves families with restricted opportunities to break the cycle of poverty through education. With few permanent work opportunities and a dependence on farming, families are vulnerable to the adverse shocks caused by natural disasters.
‘We think it’s great we can support whole communities instead of just individual families,’ Megan says. ‘The women receiving the loans are investing income from their little businesses into their families, building their community. We’re very excited we can follow the journey out of poverty of the families who live in the communities we help – while they’re building their businesses through to putting nutritious food on the table each night and sending their kids to school.’
‘Generosity is a lot about caring,’ Megan says.’ It flows back easily once you care and understand what other people are going through, generosity is giving other people the chances you’ve had.’
‘As well as the $20,000 donation Alecto makes to Opportunity each year, the company supports our workplace giving program, matching the gifts of our staff.
‘Our staff love receiving regular updates from Opportunity about the progress out of poverty the families in our communities are making,’ Megan says. ‘I’d like to encourage other companies to support a charity – it’s a great way for your team to come together to make a tangible difference in the world.’
Every company exists within broader human society. We live in an economy, but we also live in a community. TechnologyOne recognises this, and has done since its founding in 1987, supporting a range of charities and community organisations – particularly those with a focus on youth. TechnologyOne supports youth because through investing in young people we can impact the future.
TechnologyOne believes it is important to give back to the community, leading the company to establish the TechnologyOne Foundation. Technology is part of the global initiative, Pledge 1%, committing to donating 1% of time, 1% of profit and 1% of product to charities.
The TechnologyOne Foundation is underpinned by its partnership with Opportunity International Australia, and together we have set an ambitious goal to free 500,000 children and their families from poverty over the next 15 years, through microfinance.
TechnologyOne’s Executive Chairman, Adrian Di Marco, says the TechnologyOne Foundation is one of his proudest initiatives in TechnologyOne’s 30-year history.
“We established the TechnologyOne Foundation as a way to pay it forward, and institutionalise giving for our company,” Mr Di Marco says. “As a large, successful company we have the capability and capacity to make a difference. The Foundation really defines who we are as a company. It defines our values, culture and who we aspire to be, and demonstrates the values we are looking for in future employees.”
Mr Di Marco adds: “As a company that retains a start-up mindset and values the entrepreneurial spirit, we feel particularly well aligned to what Opportunity is trying to achieve. This partnership resonates with me on a personal, entrepreneurial level, and also aligns so closely with the core goal of the TechnologyOne Foundation.”
Mr Di Marco says TechnologyOne has cultivated a strong philanthropic culture of providing assistance inside and outside working hours to contribute to the Foundation’s initiatives, and in particular, to save children from poverty through the Opportunity partnership.
“I am proud of our people and what we have committed to achieve together. They passionately care about making a difference to underprivileged and at-risk youth in our communities, and to giving our youth more opportunities in life,” he says. “Our people are excited about the future of the Foundation, because it offers them an opportunity to make a real difference in our communities.
“Along with fundraising activities, we offer our people 2.5 days dedicated volunteering leave each year, which gives them an opportunity to donate more than just money. By donating time and skills, they feel connected to these charitable initiatives and committed to making change.”
“Through our partnership with Opportunity, we’re looking to create a sustainable change. Investing in helping people to help themselves and their families, through small, structured finance, is a hand up rather than a hand out, and creates a long-term, sustainable path out of poverty.”
Director and founder of 4impact, Chris Eldridge, is drawn to the way Opportunity supports other entrepreneurs. “Generosity is respecting the opportunities that you’ve been given by trying to create the same opportunities for someone else,” he says. “As an entrepreneur, supporting Opportunity is helping create that space for someone else to do the same thing.”
4impact launched as a technology services business in 2005 and commenced its association with Opportunity not long after. Chris said he wanted to avoid the mentality of “waiting until you’re successful to start giving.”
“We wanted our contribution to be tied with our business growth and success, our highs and lows,” he says. “Even if 4impact goes out of business, there is an ongoing legacy through what we’ve already donated because the loans are being recycled.”
Opportunity’s model of giving a hand up by providing and recycling loans resonates with Chris as he reflects on his own experiences of receiving business loans to build 4impact. “I would look at the finance loans I’ve taken from banks here to build my business. What dawned on me was, it’s not really a charity.”
“Give families a business loan and they help themselves out of poverty. I haven’t gotten them out of poverty, they’re in charge of their own lives which is massively empowering.”
His advice for other entrepreneurial companies: “Find a way to do it now! Make a contribution. Find a way to contribute along the way, don’t wait until you’ve made it.”
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