Back in 2004, Allan English started supporting a large-scale project in East Timor led by Opportunity International Australia that would move 40,000 people out of poverty. Inspired by the catalytic impact of giving, Allan subsequently set up the English Family Foundation and established Opportunity as the cornerstone of the English Family Foundation’s grant portfolio.
This partnership has strengthened over the years, and the English Family Foundation established a ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’ to fund 1 million people out of poverty through microfinance by 2020. This goal was reached a year early in 2019.
Opportunity International Australia exists to provide opportunities for people living in poverty to transform their lives. It uses a holistic approach to solve poverty – empowering families through community development programs and small loans (known as microfinance or a micro loan) to help them grow their own small businesses. 95% of loan recipients are women, and they achieve a remarkable 98% repayment rate. The loans are repaid in 6-24 months and then either reborrowed or lent to new entrepreneurs to help them start or grow small businesses and provide for themselves and their families.
Details of support
The English Family Foundation funding was used to support Samhita, a local not-for-profit microfinance institution working in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in India’s north. The state of Madhya Pradesh alone is home to 85 million people, and one in three live below the poverty line. Villagers are often dependent on small-scale agriculture and income is slow and unreliable. It often falls to the women of the household to support the family.
Samhita’s vision is to serve India’s poorest communities with a full range of essential financial and non-financial services. It offers four types of income generation loans so that families can purchase income-producing assets like cattle or use the working capital to start a business.
In 2019 we reached the target of one million people whose lives transformed through microfinance support enabled by English Family Foundation funding. For many families, access to Samhita’s patient capital enables them to send their children to school or university, which is an opportunity to shift the tide of inter-generational poverty.
Why did we pursue this partnership?
We find the leverage of this support entirely compelling. Funding can be disbursed and recycled to impact thousands of individuals. Access to patient micro loans enables some of the poorest individuals to carve out their own futures and lead lives of dignity, opportunity and fulfilment.
What have we learned?
The long-standing partnership with Opportunity has been a huge inspiration for our giving. We have learned that local organisations are in the best position to respond to community needs and provide the right support within challenging economic and political contexts.