UnPoverty is Possible: Grow Rich by Helping the World's Poor
- Friday, August 13, 2010
Eight people were living in there - her mother, her two elder sisters, herself, and then her brother, his wife, and their two children. So these eight people are living in this room, which was divided in half, the family of four on the one side and then the other four on the other side. He lost his job. He was the only breadwinner in the family. He was the only one who had any kind of income. He worked in a sweatshop basically and lost that. Now, there was no income. The two older sisters doused each other with kerosene and lit the match.
ML: The younger sister, Monika, then decided that she needed to provide for the family, and she approached this organization to receive a microloan. I was visiting with the loan officer who gave that loan, who said that on the first day when she walked in, her self-esteem was so low she could not even look him in the eye. She just looked at the ground. That is all her poverty would allow her to do.
The day that I met her, she was the representative of this group of 30 women. They each had received a microloan - we are talking maybe $100. With her money, she had bought a wet grinder. The other women in the community would bring their rice to her every day, and she would grind their rice and return it back to them. They would pay her either with rupees or with rice. She did not care, either one. She needed to eat. And she was now the representative for this whole group. And this same guy into whose eye she would not look less than two years ago, she was now badgering back with him.
And I talk about it in the book, the discussion that goes, "We would all like more loans today. We would like to, now that we have finished our…"
And he said, "Now you know the rules. Two of you have not paid off your loan, and nobody gets new credit until it is all paid back."
And she said, "Well, you know what happened. One of them bought a milk cow, and with the sale of the milk she was to pay back her loan. The cow died."
He said, "Well that is too bad, but you know that the deal is that they were encouraged to take out an insurance policy."
She replied, "Well, she did not. Now how should she pay back this loan?"
This went on for about 15 minutes. And here she was debating on behalf of the others for more credit. I say that is transformation, that somebody‘s self-esteem can change from downcast and downtrodden to standing up for others.
CW: Wow. We have so much in this country. What does it take? What can one person do? What sorts of things will change the situation around the world? ML: That is a very great question, because it is counterintuitive. I can just make a few dollars donation to somewhere. I mean that is like spitting in the ocean and waiting for the water table to rise. It is not going to happen. But if we all recognize that the poor are rich, they have assets, and all we have to do is empower them, we do not have to feed everybody.
Monika now is creating capital in her community, and someone else now is making food. Someone else is making sandals, and they all buy from each other. And the miracle of capitalism takes place, and it grows. So we do not have to give the money out to everybody. We create a system within these communities.
And then the other part of it is that I recognize that microfinance is not the silver bullet that is going to solve poverty, but it is one element. And it is a root of people's need. Because when people grow from one dollar a day to two dollars a day, one of the first things they do is put their kids in school.
CW: Wow. ML: Because that twenty dollar annual fee [for school] is the tie-breaker, and if you have got three kids and only one of them is a boy and you can only afford one, it is always the boy who gets to go to school. So what I do in the book is, in the back of the book, I have this epilogue with eight pages, one for each of eight different ministries. Each one is addressing a different element of poverty. Compassion International deals with education. Habitat for Humanity deals with housing. Living Water deals with drilling wells for the poor. And then you have got International Justice Mission, and more. Each of these groups is bringing their expertise to bear on one element of poverty.
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