Opportunity International Canada

Empowering Progress: Partnership Impact with Opportunity International Canada

Opportunity International Canada is dedicated to transforming lives around the world through the power of microfinance. This organization champions the entrepreneurial spirit in impoverished communities, providing individuals with the financial resources, training, and support needed to start and grow their own businesses. Their vision is a world where everyone has the chance to live free from poverty, with dignity and purpose. By enabling personal and community growth, Opportunity International ensures that its impact is profound and enduring, supporting not just individuals but entire communities in their journey toward sustainability and prosperity.

Catalysts for Health: Enhancing Community Well-being in India

In 2023, the Shah Family Foundation contributed $100,000 to support Opportunity International Canada’s Community Health Leaders Program in rural India. This program focuses on health, nutrition, and hygiene education, empowering women through six months of training to become community health educators. Each woman is equipped to impact200 households by sharing essential health knowledge, providing first aid, and facilitating access to formal healthcare services. The initiative not only boosts community health but also empowers women to significantly increase their earnings by selling health-related products, thereby creating a sustainable cycle of health improvement and economic empowerment.

Impact to Date

The Community Health Leaders Program has achieved significant milestones in 2023. By year-end, 150 trained leaders had reached 37,216 families, impacting roughly 186,080 individuals across their communities. These efforts resulted in notable improvements: 25% in health attitudes and practices, 50% in menstrual/reproductive knowledge, 38% in maternal health knowledge, and 33% in general health knowledge. The program also facilitated access to professional medical advice and treatments, enhancing overall community trust and respect, particularly from male community members, thus fostering a more inclusive approach to health and wellness.

Usha’s Story

While Usha is new to the Community Health Leaders program (CHL), her journey with Opportunity began years ago. Living in poverty in Uttar Pradesh, she and her husband used Opportunity microloans to expand their electronics business.

Usha heard about the CHL program and was delighted to be accepted into the program where she learned about basic health care, first aid and the importance of clean water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition. A bit nervous at first, once she began attending sessions she said, “My fellow trainees are like family.” She has enjoyed giving presentations in her community and as she puts it, “I am spreading good health messages and education.”

Usha assists her neighbours and suggests ways for them to regain their health. But if things are complex, she helps facilitate extended care. To help navigate her path, she uses an app on her tablet. She enters symptoms and health data into the application and receives prompts to narrow down to potential problems.

When approached by a mom and baby, she performed a basic exam, and the app confirmed her suspicion of a potential urinary tract infection. She referred the mom to the nearest health centre. She also was called to the scene where a villager cut himself severely– she was able to perform first aid while arranging for him to get the care he needed. Friends and neighbours have recognized her confidence and calmness when managing health concerns. At first, her husband was skeptical, and he insisted on walking or driving her on the back of his motorcycle when called for assistance or giving a presentation in the community, however in a few short weeks, she had become empowered. He was proud of his wife. Today, although Usha is allowed to go on her own, she says her husband still joins her occasionally to watch her in action in the community.

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