Working to End Extreme Poverty

Henri Haber

When it comes to life stories, Henri Haber’s is one for the books.

From his Jewish upbringing to his introduction to Jesus to his engaging and executing on his God-given calling, Henri’s journey exemplifies the “success to significance” transformation that is part and parcel of the Pinnacle Forum experience.

Born in Belgium to parents who survived the Nazi occupation in World War II, Henri and his family emigrated to Israel, where he grew up, attended school and served in the military at the start of the Six Day War in 1967.

He came to the United States to attend New York University’s American Language Institute, and then began a career in hospitality management that took him from the Big Apple to Tel Aviv and eventually to Lexington, Kentucky where he would meet his future wife Jennifer – and his future Lord and Savior.

“I had a very distorted view of Christianity,” Henri admits – until at the behest of his future father-in-law he attended Jennifer’s family church on a Monday night — “I wouldn’t attend a traditional Sunday service,” he notes — and he­ard a talk by Ravi Zacharias. “It opened my mind to absolute truth” – so much so that he returned the next four nights and met with the well-known Christian apologist and author, with whom he has stayed in contact ever since.

“Ravi prayed for me,” Henri recalls, “asking God to reveal to me who He truly was.”

So began a two-year journey that took Henri from, in his own words, “being a Jew who believed in one true God to becoming a follower of Jesus” – a journey that included immersing himself in a New Testament, written in Hebrew, that was given to him by Dennis Kinlaw, then president of Asbury College in nearby Wilmore, Kentucky.

Life then took Henri from the hospitality industry to becoming a partner in a private equity firm, and from the Bluegrass State to the Lone Star State. It was there, in Austin, Texas, in 1999 that he read and was inspired by Bob Buford’s book, “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance.”

“I really felt called to do something for the Kingdom,” he says, and that “something” involved taking his skills at raising private equity to Medical Ambassadors International, a non-profit committed to bringing physical and spiritual healing to some of the most vulnerable people and places in the world.

After five years as Director of Advancement, Henri left Medical Ambassadors to join another non-profit, Opportunity International, with a stated goal of “ending extreme poverty in our lifetime” – a goal that is perfectly aligned with the United Nation’s top sustainable development priority of no poverty by 2030.

Opportunity International’s strategy has involved providing micro loans, savings programs, insurance, relevant training and support to more than 10 million people in nearly two dozen countries who are considered to be the poorest or the poor – people living on less than $1.90 a day, in most cases mainly because, in Henri’s words, “they were just born in a different ZIP code.”

In his role as vice president of philanthropy, Henri is responsible for raising the capital in three regions – Texas, Colorado and Northern California – needed to carry out the mission. It’s a role he relishes, one that fits with his desire to “address the root causes of a problem, not apply Band-Aids.”

“We believe small scale entrepreneurs can be big change agents in overcoming global poverty,” Henri explains. “When people have access to financial services, training and support more children are educated, more food is produced, and communities thrive.

“We create the environment in which the creation of jobs is possible. We focus on areas that will have the most impact on poverty, including microbusinesses, education, agriculture and health—all powered by technology.

“We don’t give people a handout,” he continues. “We help people living in poverty launch and expand microbusinesses, provide for their children and create jobs in their communities. Bottom line, they are able to increase their productivity, smooth their consumption and guard their households against potential risks.”

By providing the opportunities, he notes, “we’ve helped clients create 19.4 million jobs on our way to our goal of 20 million jobs by 2020,” Henri explains.

And he is optimistic that the goal of eliminating extreme poverty will be reached.

“Thirty years ago, eradicating extreme poverty seemed impossible – more than a third of the planet lived in extreme poverty in 1990,” he explains. “Since then, open markets, free trade, and key interventions like microfinance have lifted more than 1.1 billion people out of extreme poverty – the equivalent of 130,000 people per day for the last three decades.

“Today, instead of one in three, only one in 10 people in the world live on less than $1.90 a day. No generation before us has been so close to eradicating extreme poverty.”

But crossing the finish line isn’t a given. “As we approach the last mile in this global effort, our pace is slowing (and) we face the challenge of reaching those at the very bottom of the economic ladder – those who are most excluded, and have not yet been reached through the traditional poverty alleviation efforts of the last three decades. Those who need us to innovate, become smarter and more intentional with our philanthropy. Those who have been waiting generations for their opportunity.”

Henri travelled to the ends of the earth, visiting places where he witnessed first-hand how Opportunity International’s ministry has changed the lives of individuals, families and villages.

But his work is about more than simply raising money.  “We’re in the business of creating opportunities—both for people to work their way out of poverty and for those who are passionate about making that happen.” The greater goal, he says, is “to build a bridge between those who live in abject poverty in the poorest countries around the world and the most affluent in the U.S. – and to transform lives on both ends of that bridge.”

That perspective fits perfectly with Pinnacle Forum’s mission of transforming leaders to transform culture, and if “Halftime” first ignited a fire in Henri’s heart to make a difference, his Pinnacle Forum experience has fanned the flames.

For several years he was in a physical Forum in Modesto, but since returning to Texas he now is facilitating two of Pinnacle Forum’s growing number of “Zoom” video Forums.

“Nothing can really replace being together, face-to-face,” he says, while quickly adding that video Forums work better for people who live in large metro areas or who are on the road a lot. “Travel and business demands create gaps in attendance, but Zoom overcomes those obstacles.”

And, whether in-person or online, all the Forums follow Pinnacle Forum’s unique model of bringing together people of influence from across the Seven Mountains of Culture in confidential peer-to-peer Forums where they are encouraged and equipped to engage and execute on their passions and callings.

Henri has some words of wisdom for his Pinnacle Forum peers across the country:

“Understand that you don’t have to leave your business to be in ministry,” he says. “You can be a great witness for Jesus in the marketplace. Take advantage of the brain power in your Forum – you can gain wisdom from the group on how to be proactive in using your business as a ministry.”

For more on Henri Haber and Opportunity International go online to www.opportunity.org.

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