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Diasporian News of Monday, 22 December 2003

Source: Ghanaian News Canada

In Toronto to thank Funders of "Microloans"

At the recent fund raising event held by the Opportunity Canada International, Mr. Paul Ato Appiah, the Chief Operating Officer of its Ghanaian operations thanked Canadian business leaders who fund the “microloans” that help the poor entrepreneurs in developing countries like Ghana start small businesses, create new jobs and revive their local economies.

In telling his own life story, he narrated that being born into very poor family, he was sent out to work in a farmer’s field at the age of 9. He made one cent a day. He contended that he would still be a manual laborer, had it not been for the intervention of another.

At age 17, a friend gave Paul a loan of $15.00. This marked point of transformation of his life. With the $15.00, Paul started a micro business on the street, selling toothpaste and other cosmetics. With the profits, he paid his way through University to study Business Administration.

Now married and the father of five children, Paul is the Chief Operating Officer of the Opportunity International Ghana. Paul understands so well, the plight of the poor and fueled with passion, he provides the same opportunities he once received to poor women and men.

Opportunity International Canada is non-profit organization that turns individuals and corporate donations into “microloans” in developing communities all over the world. The loans are relatively small by Canadians standards – averaging just $200 to $300. But they have huge impact. With a loan, a poor woman or man can start a business, earn an income and provide for their family – without the indignity of a “hand-out”.

At present, Opportunity International serves almost 417, 000 clients in 25 countries. The poor have proved themselves to be credit-worthy – 98% of Opportunity’s are repaid. This makes for true ‘sustainable development’. As the loans are repaid, they are recycled into new ones.

In 2003, Opportunity International, a worldwide network, loaned more than $200 million to held hundred of thousands of entrepreneurs start businesses and revive their local economies.

“You could say we’re a bank for the poor,” says Paul Ato Appiah. “We believe in a hand up, not a handout or a high-interest rate loan”.