What a year. Wow.
Our first students are finishing school and starting new lives. Nardith, a single mom, amazing nurse in Peru and Vittana student #15, graduated in July. Ngoan, the first in her Vietnamese family to attend school beyond the eighth grade and Vittana student #110, was able to get a $569 loan to study English. Haward, our old friend and Vittana student #22, is now a lawyer and has almost completely repaid his loan.
Today, for the first time, young people in 11 different countries have a way to finish their education. Just a few weeks ago, we launched our program in the Philippines. Students will be able to enroll in group-learning classes and study technical skills to finish their education. Our first group of students, all studying welding, were funded last week in one day.
Thousands of people around the world -- supporters from 42 countries -- have made over 8,000 loans to more than 700 people around the world. Vittana students have a 97.4 percent on-time repayment rate, far higher than the United States and many other countries.
People are noticing. We got to meet President Clinton and were one of a handful featured education organizations at the Clinton Global Initiative in September. The Economist dubbed Vittana "a hotbed of innovation." One of our students was quoted in Los Angeles Times: "superbien." Fast Company named Vittana one of the "10 Most Innovative Finance Companies."
Together, we're changing the world and I wanted to show you just how much of a difference you're making:
When we first started Vittana, only a handful of people (you!) believed in young people in developing countries. We often heard: "They'll never finish school." "They'll never repay." "Vittana will never work."
In 2010, once and for all, we've shown that young people are indeed trustworthy -- they will repay, they will finish school and, with just a few dollars, they will break the cycle of poverty.
Sometimes, in the breakneck pace of starting an organization, you forget to stop and take stock of what matters most. I wanted to take some time today and just say thank you. I look over the past year and what a surreal, incredible journey it has been. None of it would have been possible without people like you. Whether you're a lender, translator, fellow, advisor, donor or just a friend, none of this would be possible without you. You've come together to make Vittana and access to education a reality for young people around the world.
From the bottom of my heart and from all of us here at Vittana, thank you.
Here's to an even more incredible 2011. From the Vittana family to your family, Happy New Year!
p.s. We've heard from many of you wondering when new students would come online. As of this morning, we've added 22 new students studying everything from cosmetology to teaching from Honduras, Vietnam and 4 other countries.