Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A marriage of humility and pride

The foundation of Opportunity International UK, whose anniversary celebration I went to this evening, had several critical moments. (www.opportunity.org.uk)

But one I recall was when three of the trustees of the Andrews Charitable Trust and its director (me) went to visit Opportunity's work in Indonesia to assess whether we wanted to be involved. We were in Bengkulu in Sumatra and we were interviewing a client of the local Opportunity partner. He had come from Bali as part of Indonesia's short-lived and controversial policy of dispersing people from intensely populated areas to more rural ones. You got two hectares of land and a ration of rice for eighteen months. Then you were on your own.

This particular client had received a loan to start a fish farm and showed us his ponds with pride. I asked him what he thought of the Opportunity partner that had lent him the money to get started. He replied that they were the first people, ever, in his life, to treat him as a person. The chairman of Andrews turned to me and said that is why we are going to do this (and we did, Opportunity UK was born out of our support). It was not simply that the business of micro-finance stacked up, and it did, for the Sumatran partner was well-managed and competent; but that it worked with people as people, and transformed their lives.

This evening we were showed a film about Agnes, a Ghanian woman, whose business had been made resilient through Opportunity's intervention. Her children, as a result, would finish high school and possible go to university. The money to start the Ghanian partner of Opportunity, I raised. I remember, vividly, a weekend in the office, writing and re-writing the proposal, sealing the combined effort of many dedicated and remarkable people. 

This evening was one of those moments when humility and pride marry into a satisfying whole.


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