Opportunity International Australia provides people living in poverty with the opportunity to transform their lives. Using a sustainable approach to breaking the cycle of poverty – offering a hand up rather than a hand out – Opportunity International Australia empowers families through microfinance loans and community development, to help grow their own small business.
Founded by Australian entrepreneur David Bussau in the 1970s, following a volunteer experience as an aid worker in Bali, Indonesia with an earthquake recovery program, David began to provide small loans to struggling local farmers. The money was used to buy capital equipment such as a sewing machine to start a tailoring business, a stall and produce to sell at market, and as loans were repaid and then recycled, the program grew. Partnering with a former US President of Bristol Myers Al Whittaker, who shared David’s aspirations and had trialed a similar concept around the same time in South America, the two set in motion, monumental changes.
From as little as $A70, small business loans have helped millions of families around the world in over 20 developing countries, noticeably transforming lives in a number of ways. Family incomes rise, food quality and intake improve allowing children to attend school; homes are improved or upgraded, women gain in terms of self-esteem and status, families can build a safety net for the future; communities are helped by those who succeed with enhanced employment opportunities, training (financial, business, life skills) and examples of leadership.
In Australia, Opportunity International works extensively to assist families in the Philippines. The organisation has been working in the Philippines for over 30 years, where it is giving a hand up to more than 460,000 families living in poverty. As well as small loans, Opportunity is transforming lives with additional financial services such as insurance and business literacy training. Since many of the poorest people in the Philippines are farmers, Opportunity is also working closely with around 18,000 small-scale farmers, helping connect them with international markets and increased agricultural support. Last year, Opportunity helped communities recover after Typhoon Haiyan, which included providing access to shelter for nearly 1000 people. Moving forward, Opportunity will continue to build financial inclusion to break the poverty cycle for thousands by providing further innovations such as remittances and mobile banking.
Fully accredited by the Australian Government under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it receives Federal funding via the ANCP - Australian Non-Government Organisation Cooperation Program. Opportunity is a full member of the Australian Council for International Development and as such adheres to strict principles of corporate governance, codes of conduct, audit, risk and compliance standards, human rights, socio-economic and performance measures.
Opportunity International Australia benefits from the Australian Tax Office’s Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, where donations over A$2 are tax deductible. Philanthropic grants make up an important source of funding and in the future, an innovative project underway will be the launch of a social debt fund.
The default rate of their microfinance loans is surprisingly low, 3% on average, and considerable safeguards are in place to prevent over-indebtedness. Those helped, having built up a credit history; often return once a loan has been repaid, for a second loan to aid expansion - purchases of goods or capital equipment - and to even employ others from their local communities.
A life free from poverty lived with dignity and purpose, is a core objective of Opportunity International Australia, which serves all people regardless of ethnicity, gender, race or religion.
Inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan, who crossed cultural boundaries and showed compassion to someone in great need, the journey of transformation from poverty to sustainable self-sufficiency is an extraordinary achievement.
More information can be found on their website: opportunity.org.au
NICOLE FORREST GREEN – CHAIR, APBC (CSR) Corporate Social Responsibility Sub-Committee
Robert Dunn, CEO Opportunity International Australia and ABPC Vice President for NSW with an Opportunity beneficiary