Dorothy Njobvu Kanjautso’s world was threatening to come apart after her husband’s death eight years ago, in 1999. The 27-year-old mother found herself unable to provide for her three children. Using money from her deceased husband’s estate, Dorothy started a small nursery school – converting one of the rooms in her house into a classroom and hiring a teacher. But after a few months, the business began to decline, and she needed help.
Dorothy joined an Opportunity International Trust Group – a group consisting of 15-30 Opportunity International loan borrowers – in her village outside Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. With a $70 loan from Opportunity International, she purchased play mats and games for the children. During the next four years, Dorothy expanded the nursery school to a private elementary school with seven teachers and more than 200 students. The 30-to-1 teacher-student ratio is far more favorable than the 70-to-1 ratio found in government schools.
In total, Dorothy has taken out six loans from Opportunity International to expand and diversify her school and start two additional businesses – selling frozen treats from a cart and renting houses, which employ five more people. Through Opportunity International, Dorothy has a savings account and life insurance – financial services that have not been available to the vast majority of Africans in the past.
At home, the loans have improved the nutrition and education of her children. Kelvin, 12, Natasha, 11 and Vanessa, 9, used to eat meat only once a month, but are now able to have it weekly. Through the Trust Group, Dorothy has learned about nutrition, and the meals she puts on the table are more balanced. With profits from her business, she can also afford to educate her children, which she hopes will give them a fighting chance to escape poverty.