Fighting World Poverty

July 15, 1993

Too many people are reluctant to donate to charities. They fear their money will be misused, or they doubt their small gift will do much good in the long run. They ask: "So you can help feed a Third World family for a week? What happens to the family after that?"

Severna Park resident David Simms found himself faced with this dilemma several years ago when he discovered Chicago-based Opportunity International, a non-sectarian, not-for-profit Christian organization that makes small business loans to thousands of people (not necessarily Christians) in 17 of the world's poorest countries.

Now a member of Opportunity International's board of directors, Mr. Simms travels the East Coast raising money for this worthy, unusual program, which aims to spur economic growth in underdeveloped nations. Last year, this organization loaned $6.6 million to 13,634 people worldwide, creating or salvaging 44,000 jobs.

Opportunity International's appeal is that it doesn't just help someone to eat for a day or a month. It's not mere charity, which lasts only as long as the contributions flow. Its goal is to enable people with no money or credit to support themselves. A relative pittance helps entire families, including children who otherwise wouldn't eat or go to school as long as their parents are unemployed. Western minds may find this amazing, but a loan of only $431 creates a permanent job that will feed a dozen people for a lifetime.

Repayment rates stand at 90 percent, thanks to screenings by church networks that identify recipients who are willing to pay. And the money truly promotes economic growth; loans are distributed by affiliates in each country, and money repaid goes back into the loan pool for others in that country.

L Of course, many other charities deserve our generosity, too.

National organizations such as the United Way and the American Cancer Society have made a major impact on the community. So have local organizations in this region, such as the Annapolis-based Helping Hand Inc., which serves Anne Arundel County's needy, and the area YMCA and YWCA centers.

But those who are looking for a way to help fight poverty and hunger throughout the world might also consider Operation International -- an organization that appears to make a little bit of money go a long way.


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