Liesel Pritzker Donates $4 Million to Opportunity International to Help Expand Microfinance Services in Africa
OAK BROOK, IL, June 16, 2009 — Liesel Pritzker, 25, has donated $4 million to Opportunity International, a non-profit that provides financial services to people living in poverty in the developing world. Though her contribution is one of the largest ever given to the organization, Pritzker's commitment is broader than just financial support. She is the founder of Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO), a network of young professionals who aim to inspire, educate and involve others in microfinance and the work of Opportunity International.
"I am thrilled to be able to support the work of Opportunity International, and it humbles me greatly. I don't want to wait to make a difference. I want to help this globally minded generation understand and experience the power of microfinance in breaking the cycle of poverty," Pritzker said.
"We are pleased to have the support of young leaders like Liesel who are socially conscious and have a passion for building a better world," said Kadita "A.T." Tshibaka, president and CEO, Opportunity International. "We believe their efforts will have a significant impact on the expansion of Opportunity's financial services to reach many more Africans living in poverty."
To date, YAO has formed chapters in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Southern California to host educational, social and fundraising events. YAO has chosen to support Opportunity's initiative to build a full-service microfinance bank for those working their way out of poverty in Tanzania, one of the world's poorest nations. In the summer of 2008, Liesel volunteered for two months in Tanzania, where she became convinced of the need to provide loans, savings, training and insurance to those who are marginalized. She also renewed her commitment to making it happen by involving others through the YAO initiative.
"The most profound lesson that I have learned is that the term 'poor' is a grossly inaccurate way to describe the spirit of the people that I've met. Behind every statistic is a person: a mother, a father, a child," she said. "I know I'm not the only one that wants to see actual change and transformation for Tanzania. YAO seeks to engage the energy and passion of this generation with sustainable solutions to poverty. We've grown up being aware of the need to make a difference in our local communities, and now, through technology, we have greater access to more information and the ability to create positive change in the wider world."
Tanzania has a population of 42 million with more than half living in abject poverty. There is a significant demand for microfinance services, with less than 10 percent of the population having access to savings accounts. Liesel will lead a trip for YAO members and other young professionals on Sept. 5-12, 2009 to visit Opportunity's operations and clients in Tanzania and Rwanda.
"My involvement with Opportunity and the Young Ambassadors has changed my life and my sense of what I'm supposed to do with it," she said. "I have been very blessed financially and I have access to opportunities many other people don't have. It's only fair and right that I try my best to share these resources in the most effective ways. I think this is a start."
About Opportunity International
Opportunity International provides small business loans, savings, insurance and training in basic business practices to people living in chronic poverty. Entrepreneurs in the developing world use these financial services to start or expand a business, develop a steady income, provide for their families and create jobs for their neighbors. Opportunity serves clients in almost 30 countries around the world. For more information, visit www.opportunity.org.
About Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO)
YAO, an initiative of Opportunity International, is a network of young professionals (ages 20-35) who aim to inspire, educate and involve others in microfinance and Opportunity's work in implementing this sustainable solution to global poverty. YAO welcomes people of all levels of familiarity with microfinance and of all faith backgrounds. For more information, visit www.opportunity.org/yao.