Another guestpost from the Starfoxy!
Yunus’ notion — today, known as microcredit — has spread around the globe in the past three decades and is said to have helped more than 100 million people take their first steps to rise out of poverty.
Some bought diary cows, others egg-laying hens. In recent years, money for a single cell phone has been enough to start thriving enterprises in isolated villages without phone lines from East Asia to West Africa.
The basic premise is that small loans are given out to people stuck in poverty, the loan gives them enough money to buy whatever they might need to support themsevles then they are able to repay the money as they profit from their investment. The loans are normally only about $200, and the vast majority (97%) of the 6.6 Million people who have benefitted from this are women.
Yunus told The Associated Press in 2004 that his ”eureka moment” came while chatting to a shy woman weaving bamboo stools with calloused fingers.
Sufia Begum was a 21-year-old mother of three when he met her in 1974 and asked how much she earned. She replied that she borrowed about five taka, the equivalent of nine cents, from a middleman for the bamboo for each stool.
All but two cents of that went back to the lender.
”I thought to myself, my God, for five takas she has become a slave,” Yunus said in the interview.
The following day, he and his students did a survey in the woman’s village, Jobra, and discovered that 43 villagers owed a total of $27.
”I couldn’t take it anymore. I put the $27 out there and told them they could liberate themselves,” he said, and pay him back whenever they could. The idea was to buy their own materials and cut out the middleman.
Over the following year, they all paid him back — day by day.
I have no deep spiritual insights to go along with this- other than a reminder that Fast Offerings and church service activities are not the only appropriate avenues for being generous (a reminder I frequently need). Although, working through and with the church Humanitarian Aid department is a easy way to be certain your funds and efforts will go to good use, there are so many more ways to serve.