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Microloans work! Story on OPB's Frontline

Story about microloans to Ugandan's: A fantastic model for Portland activists to study
I despair watching the news, more each day. Death, blood, destruction, abuse, such a deluge of hopeless images conditioning me that I've learned to eat dinner while I watch, where once it would have made me ill to combine the two activities. But Frontline's story on OPB last night made me proud, yep, proud to be human again. Watch it at< link to www.pbs.org and search for the story called "Uganda: A Little Goes a Long Way" which aired October 31, 2006. I'm sorry for the cliche, but it's an uplifting story; however, not a warm-fuzzy story because it has such valuable content.

Ugandans have begun to obtain zero-interest loans through a small grass-roots organization called Kiva , which means "agreement" or "unity" in Swahili, (Kiva.org). Kiva interviews Ugandan applicants, submits their personal stories along with their business proposals on the web, and people world-wide are responding. It usually takes 2 1/2 days for an approved microloan to reach its applicant, thanks to PayPal donating its services. These loans typically range from $100 to $500 and help start or improve home-businesses in a part of the world where the only other industry is to smash rocks in the local quarry.

Kiva, in collaboration with villagers, screen loan applicants carefully. In one village applicants are screened at a weekly outdoor meeting attended by villagers--some times up to 50 people show up. One woman wanted to start new business, but a villager spoke out and made the stipulation that should she start the business, that she not hire her son: he'd refused to go to school and wasn't to be relied upon.

The point is, unlike giving to faceless agencies who decide where the money goes (mostly to running the faceless agency), and unlike adopting a starving child and receiving letters and photographs of the child who looks better for having eaten better, yet who still barely exists and most likely will remain stuck in hopeless poverty, the average citizens who loan money to specific applicants know that 100% of the money goes to the project proposed. The lender benefits because he or she is able to establish a real and growing relationship, albeit, via the web: A Ugandan loan administrator, a local from the village--not an outsider, keeps close tabs on the progress of the business and loan re-payments and uploads the information along with photos of the growing enterprise, so that investors have constant feedback. It's exciting. Or, as one man in San Francisco said, he lends a $100 here and there for perhaps a bicycle so someone can make deliveries, then when he gets the money back, along with a report of business growth related to the recipient's ability to make bicycle deliveries. Seeing this, he feels motivated to re-invest the $100 in another microbusiness. "This way, I can be my own little Bill Gates," he said.

Several more impressive things: In less than a year, Kiva has spread to 11 countries; private individuals have loaned more than $400,000.00, a few hundred dollars at a time; AND, no one has ever defaulted on a loan! So far, every investor has seen %100 percent of his or her money returned. Meanwhile, villages where the microloans have taken place, such as the Acholi Quarter, are investing their new profits in their community and are beginning to see a need for new industry. Thanks to successful microloans, they have begun building new homes made from durable materials.

You can read whatever I've left out or perhaps misquoted in my excitement by visiting the website above. However, I've written all this not only to get more people to investigate the Frontline story, but also because it made me wonder what we here in Portland can take from this Ugandan model of success to help the more than 16,000 people who experience homelessness in Oregon each year (most temporarily but about 2,000 chronically). What can we do with modest beginning to help the growing numbers who experience extreme, humiliating, and socially debilitating poverty in our own state?

Perhaps someone with more technical and/or business saavy than I have will think of something.
remember women and children 01.Nov.2006 17:14

a woman

the guy who created the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus, won the Nobel Peace Prize for this bank. I am putting this bit of info about how this bank works to remind everyone that this bank works BECAUSE IT SERVES WOMEN, and we here in the states, and in pdx, are no different...as Gandhi said (paraphrased) "If there is to be peace in the future, the future is to be with women." It is a universal idea. Here is info about the Grameen (Village) Bank.
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"...The idea came when [Yanus] lent $27 to a small group of village women because they could not get the money on their own.
'...Their poverty was not a personal problem due to laziness or lack of intelligence, but a structural one: lack of capital,' Yunus said in 1996, The Washington Post reported...

THE ROLE OF WOMEN

Over 96 percent of Grameen's borrowers are women. Many are illiterate.
Yunus has said that dealing directly with women is critical to making real change in rural society.
Bangladeshi woman (USAID)'Women are very cautious with the use of the money, but the men were impatient; they wanted to enjoy it right away. They will entertain friends, they will go to the movies, they will do whatever they could to enjoy for themselves personally. But women didn't look at it personally,' he told the NewsHour.

'Women looked at it for the children, for the family and so on, and for the future...'"
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 link to www.pbs.org