GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

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Helping them help themselves

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When governments talk about billions of dollars, it’s hard to imagine that a few bucks can turn a life around. But Opportunity International does it for more than a million people in 28 nations each year.

The Christian-oriented group has mastered the art of of microenterprise: lending tiny amounts for individuals to support themselves. It also provides training and financial advice, and helps form community trust groups.

And yes. The organization, which holds the top four-star rating from Charity Navigator, supplies success stories.

A woman and her mother in the Philippines (left) support themselves by weaving colorful baskets, instead of scavenging at a nearby garbage dump.

A subsistence farmer in Indonesia borrowed $500 to dig 17 fish ponds, eventually harvesting 18 tons of carp per year.

In Honduras, a shoemaker stopped paying ruinous fees to loan sharks. He now employs six other fulltime workers.

A woman in Uganda used loans to buy bananas in bulk and sell them in Kampala. She not only supports eight children — four of them for university educations — but three AIDS orphans as well.

As you can see, the clients often use their success to help their neighbors. And 98 percent of trust group loans are repaid, Opportunity International says.

Is all this Christian? In answer, the group quotes Jesus: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

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Written by Jim Davis

November 5, 2008 at 5:50 am

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