Microcredit

Another guestpost from the Starfoxy!

The Nobel Peace Prize went to Mohammed Yunus from Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank for their Microloan program. From the New York Times:

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.

Deborah

Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. John says:

    Starfoxy, thanks for getting the word out about this. One of our family’s favorite is the Heifer foundation which provides sustainable food sources (a goat to provide milk, a hen for the eggs, etc.) for families in the developing world. The surplus food is often sold for extra income, and sometimes through breeding an entire community can be transformed.

    I think the organization was founded by Menonnites and the Church of the Brethren (with Quakers, they make up the historic peace churches). Small and simple things, indeed!

  2. Anonymous says:

    John, thanks for the link! That is exactly the sort of organization I was thinking of.

    I feel I should also note that I wrote this before seeing James Lucas’ posts at BCC about the Grameen Foundation and their relation to the United Order. They are well worth the read- Part I and Part II

  3. Deborah says:

    I love Heifer, too — it’s fun to give this as a gift to kids.

    Last year on some news program, I heard about a website that rates charities, giving specific information about how much of the money donated actually makes it to those in need. Anyone know the best such database?

  4. dangermom says:

    I have long thought that this is a great model for helping people come up out of poverty. Funds like this, Heifer Intl, and hey, the PEF as well, seem to work really well for helping whole communities. Likewise the programs that teach African villagers to build and maintain their own artesian wells (where previously, someone would come in and build one, and then leave, leaving no one in the village who knew how to maintain it).

    So I think that the Nobel Prize has been well-bestowed this year.

  5. sarah says:

    Deb (and others):

    Got to http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm

    for information about charities — the top ten lists are interesting. They list the top ten charities that overspend on administrative costs (with percentages), the top ten charities whose money really goes to the charities, etc.

    The Heifer Foundation sounds groovy! I want to give a llama!!! I love llamas. Very cool idea for Christmas, wedding registries, etc.

  6. Caroline says:

    Yesterday on NPR, I listened to a story about microcredit. It’s such a compelling story. Tiny amounts of money liberating people and helping them work towards a less impoverished life.

    Recently a solicitation came in the mail for money for a microcredit charity that particularly specialized in helping women. It felt really right to write a check and send it off.

    I second everything said about Heifer. It’s my favorite charity.

  7. AmyB says:

    Thanks shining a spotlight on this. There are so many ways to give, and I love to hear about the good people are doing in the world. I’m feeling motivated to do more and give more on my own part.

  8. Mel says:

    BYU has a growing initiative to help people get involved in microcredit (and other self-reliance) programs. You can get more info at http://marriottschool.byu.edu/selfreliance/index.cfm.
    They are working hard to find best practices to help people become more self reliant, alleviating poverty.

  9. cchrissyy says:

    for years we’ve given to food for the poor because such a high prcent of the donation actually goes to food/education/housing/animals.
    Check the report compared to Heifer.

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