In 1976, Muhammad Yunus, an economist in Bangladesh, decided to do something that bankers never do. He made a loan out of his own pocket to a very poor group of people who had no collateral. There were 42 villagers living near Chittagong University, where he taught economics. He found that these villagers needed a grand total of $27 to buy the materials to start their own small business.
Yunus decided that he would put his money where his mouth was, an especially apt way to describe the actions of a professor of economics who parts with his own money for an idealistic reason.
His seemingly risky gesture in support of his personal ideals was upheld by what happened. The villagers succeeded in saving their village from economic extinction and they paid their banker, Yunus, back with interest. In response, Yunus founded the Grameem Bank. Its purpose is to make "microloans" to the poorest of the world's poor. The typical loan recipient lives on less than a dollar a day. In Bangladesh, there are many good candidates
Bangladesh is a country which time has largely forgotten. Its population is 83 percent Muslim with the remainder being mostly Hindu. It is a democracy, and its governance is modern, if inefficient and corrupt, with a legal system based on English common law. It is poor and overpopulated. Almost all of its citizens live in places where cyclones and floods frequently reduce whole villages to nothing.
The loans the Grameem Bank makes are generally for less than $200.00. They are usually given to women, because, as Yunus says, it is women who know how to use the money to feed their families and to create self-sustaining businesses. Often the loan is for money to buy some chickens and a rooster, or a pair of milk-bearing cows or goats.
The woman proprietor sells the eggs while her chickens multiply naturally. Eventually she is also able to sell chickens. Or she sells milk until her cattle or goats breed and she becomes able to sell the useful animals as well to her neighbors and thereby to pass on the prosperity-making possibilities to them.
Or perhaps the loan is to purchase a supply of bamboo for a woman who knows how to craft stools. Or it might be to buy yarn which a woman can weave into crafted cloth and sell. Yunus believes that women are his best choices for recipients, not only because they are careful with the funds and pay back their loans but also because they are far more apt to be diligent at following through with the opportunity given them. Their success rate is astronomically high compared to most small businesses in the United States.
It is a remarkable statistic, but the payback rate on these collateral-less loans is between 95 and 98 percent, over this 30-year period since Yunus began this work. No normal bank in the world can boast such statistics.
It is no surprise that Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize this year. The Committee said, according to reporter, Celia W. Dugger, "Yunus' long-term vision is to eliminate poverty in the world." If you would like to read more about him, Yunus has written "Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty" to share his story. It was published in 1999 in the United States by Public Affairs and is available at your bookstore or online.
When we think of social radicalism, we tend to think of eager marchers and fervent collectors of signatures on petitions. We think of making a big splash. If we think like that, however, we miss the kind of chance that Yunus took to make a one-man difference in this world.
He targeted an incredibly unsupported group, in choosing as loan recipients, women of color who were deeply poor. Count with me - women, of color, who are poor - that's three strikes. In most places, such persons are struck out, disrespected and without honor. In stark contrast, Yunus' faith in these women has been validated over and over again. They are eminently bankable.
Yunus has also set up support systems among loan recipients, so that hard-learned business skills may be shared and all of the group find internal support from their peers and from people on staff at the Grameem Bank.
In a channeling from the Confederation entity, the spiritual entity called Latwii, through the L/L Research group on June 30, 1985, this source noted that "if stewardship of any gift and talent is expressed, then the gates of abundance open and one is flooded with plenty." Yunus is a steward whose inspiration to do what he could has resulted in his bank's helping close to 4,000,000 people out of abject poverty — so far. He is still at it!
In the same channeling by Latwii, there is a paragraph which seems to describe Muhammad Yunus to a nicety:
"Each has designed for himself a special incarnation offering powerful experiences of lack and plenty, pain and peace. If you have little money, think not that you do not deserve more. If you have much money, think not that you deserve less. But whatever your environment, fill it with your love of the Creator and allow that love to reach to the infinity of the Creator's laughing face, that His light may shine infinitely through you; that you may become plenty to others.
"Money is relevant in your illusion. Enjoy it if you have it; seek it if you must; disregard it if you can, but manifest plenty in the consciousness of love."
I open my arms and embrace your spirit. What can one person do? This is a good day to ask yourself that very question! What can your love, your light and your resources do to address your own local situation? How can you be a steward of this planet's resources for love's sake today?