Sunday, January 27, 2008

changing the world one loan at a time

My mom bought this book


for me off my wishlist which, by the way, is amazing and I recommend it.

The author, Muhammud Yunus, started a microlending institution in his native Bangladesh about 25 years ago (ish), and he and the Grameen Bank have been lending small amounts of money to the poor ever since. His goal is to eradicate poverty. The stories he tells are incredibly moving. He was the head of the economics department at a university in Bangladesh when he started questioning why economics and development practices don't help those who are below the poverty level. He saw how lending someone as small a sum as $27 (I think that was the amount) would be enough to start helping someone get out of basically a slave-labor situation. One of the things that's interesting about the Grameen bank is the extraordinarily low default rate, which is something like less than one percent (don't quote me on that number), compared to a much, much higher default rate amongst borrowers who actually have collateral.

With the book, my mom sent a note saying that I should check out which is a microlending organization that she had been lending with for a couple of years or so. I remember reading about microlending sometime back in the '80s and wanted to get involved then, but didn't know where to start. Kiva makes it very easy, and you can choose who you lend to. I recommend checking them out, too. They've been having a lot of publicity lately, which means that occasionally they actually run out of people who are looking for loans.

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