Belinda and Happy Yappies © Images Courtesy of Opportunity International
OPPORTUNITY INTERNATIONAL unleashes the power of entrepreneurs in some of the world’s poorest countries. Through innovative partnerships, our programs enable people to expand their businesses, feed their families, create jobs and change their communities. Every minute, an Opportunity client accesses the financial tools, training and support to escape poverty and gain the opportunity to live a life with dignity and purpose.
Given the world’s unprecedented “youth bulge,” globally, more than 2.9 billion people are under the age of 25. To end poverty, we need to increase our focus on the challenges presented by the large and growing young population in developing countries, especially in Africa. Opportunity International aims to tackle the critical barriers that prevent young people from accessing decent work and improve the quantity and quality of jobs available to them.
Our ultimate objective is to enable young people to find their way out of poverty through meaningful, dignified work, enjoy a stable livelihood and live a happy, healthy life.
The Youth Apprenticeship Program (YAP) fills the gap for disadvantaged and vulnerable youth aged 15 to 25 who are living in difficult conditions with no resources to impact their futures for the better. Many of these youth have dropped out of school because their families couldn’t afford to send them to school or they needed to support the family in some way. The YAP program strategy builds on our experience in financial inclusion, education and training by combining four broad program components to address this gap and offer realistic pathways leading to stable livelihoods:
- Education, job skill development providing access to school education, formal and informal vocational training, short courses to help the transition from school (or out of school) into a productive workforce
- Financial services beyond core microfinance extending to youth saving accounts and loan products designed for the youth segments and Small/Medium Enterprises to facilitate economic empowerment
- Soft life skill development with a focus on financial literacy, family planning, communications, teamwork, and interview skills
- Mentoring and coaching to build confidence and resilience in disadvantaged youth
Training is provided by Trade Masters, who are selected according to strict criteria, including professional certification, a minimum of two years of training experience, a suitable work environment, and an ability to adhere to a long-term training schedule. The program participants receive expert-level training and mentoring on an established schedule in a safe environment.
Accordingly, we’d like to introduce you to Madam Belinda, a dedicated YAP Trade Master, and according to Madam Belinda, as she is affectionately called, “You simply cannot develop as a person without hands-on experience.”
Madam Belinda is a skilled beautician and trainer who specializes in makeup, manicures and pedicures, and specialty hairstyling. She beat the odds stacked against her to achieve her goals and is incredibly proud of keeping a promise she made to herself to give back to her community—she has trained 40 youth, mostly girls and young women, who have become economically active, productive, and confident young adults.
Born into extreme poverty in one of Ghana’s most marginalized communities, Belinda and her siblings faced each day with unthinkable options to earn money for food. Her father had died, and her mother couldn’t provide for her daughters. As her dreams of an education faded beyond reach, she considered whether her life held value.
Just when it seemed all was lost, Belinda found a hero in the form of Opportunity International. Driven to succeed, she used the resources provided to achieve success and over time, she left poverty behind.
Today, Belinda is the proud owner of four beauty salons. Saying, “I do not wish anyone to experience a childhood like mine,” she was intent on paying it forward to save young women in her community from the fate she was spared.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries—developed and developing—in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth.
Opportunity International’s YAP program supports the following SDGs:
Opportunity International Canada empowers families along their journeys out of extreme poverty toward new lives filled with strength, hope, resilience and the power to achieve their dreams.