THE DIFFERENCE ONE LIFE CAN MAKE – MUHAMMAD YUNUS; “THE VISION OF A WORLD WITHOUT POVERTY”
“People talk about poverty, governments give foreign aid, and churches are devoted to charity. I wouldn’t say, there is not enough attention or resources, but it is not given in the right direction. Charity does not solve the problem, charity only maintains the problem of poverty; it doesn’t let it get worse. Eliminating poverty is about more than keeping people alive and caring for them. You have to make them active so they can care for themselves.”
Let’s unravel the story of a man who transitioned from making a living to making a difference
In the middle of the famine in Bangladesh, there lived a University lecturer who taught Economics. Even though he acquired a Ph.D. from the United States, he was unsatisfied with himself. Whenever he left the walls of the University Campus, he saw around him malnourished people who appeared like skeletons and he felt that the Economics he was teaching were mere theories with no significant difference or impact on the lives of people.
In his own words, “So I started trying to find out how people lived in the village next door to the university campus. I wanted to delay or stop the death, even for one single person.” He came in contact with a woman who specialized in making bamboo stools. The woman revealed that she made only two U.S pennies which were highly meager to her hard work and skill. The woman disclosed to him that since she did not have adequate capital to purchase the bamboo for the stools, the trader imposed a condition that she had to sell the stools to him at a price that he decided. Twenty to twenty-five cents was the cost of the bamboo.
Therefore, he decided to go around the village and came up with a list of forty-two such people who had a similar need. It all summed up to twenty-seven dollars in which he volunteered to borrow these people’s money from his pocket with the condition that they could pay him back when they were able then they could sell their product wherever they could get a good price.
A vision to help the poor people evolved in his mind and he decided to approach the manager of the bank branch which was located on the university campus to suggest to him that he lend money to the poor people he had met in the village.
The branch manager retorted, “You are crazy. It is impossible. How could we lend money to poor people? They are not creditworthy. They cannot offer collateral and such a tiny amount is not worth lending.” This unselfish-thinking man went to the people who matter in the banking section and they reiterated the same lines. Hence, he offered himself as a guarantor. The bankers warned him that poor people who received the money would never pay it back.
But he decided to take a chance. As it turned out the poor people paid him every penny. He went back to the manager with the positive feedback, But he said, “Oh no they’re just fooling you. Soon they will take more money and never pay back”. The man gave the poor people more money and they paid him back.
Despite the results that were evident that poor people were reliable, the bankers continued to have a narrow view of them because of the way they had been conditioned to see and treat poor people (they did not value the poor enough to feel they were worth taking a risk for, because of selfish thinking). The man replicated his vision in up to one hundred villages yet the bankers were not still convinced but they could not deny the proof because the poor people paid every dime that was loaned to them.
Eventually, the man thought within him, “Why am I trying to convince them? I am convinced that poor people can take the money and pay it back. Why don’t we set up a separate bank? Therefore, he presented a proposal to the government seeking permission to set up a bank. However, it took two years to convince the government.
On October 2nd, 1983 Grameen Bank popularly known as Bank for the Poor was established and became a pacesetter for the offshoot of Microcredit finance banks spreading across the world.
The Grameen Bank lends even to beggars to help them come out of begging and start selling. Grameen Bank has over 2,565 branches. It works in over 81,379 villages. The entire staff is 22,124 and the total amount of loan disbursed since its inception is $11.35 billion of which $10.11 billion has been repaid (over 97 percent recovery rate). Grameen Bank lends over $2.5bn a year to nine million borrowers approving 1,000-2,000 business proposals each month. Amazingly, all loans are interest-free with no collateral, legal instrument, group guarantee, or joint liability.
Muhammad Yunus has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his immense contribution to life.
LIFE’S LESSONS TO LIVE BY:
- The end product of real education is to meet human needs in practical ways rather than the mere accumulation of knowledge.
- The call of conscience is a call for service; the response to the call is to take personal responsibility to persistently and consistently act in the best interest of others even in opposition.
- Your value in the world is determined by the level and quality of impact you make rather than by the weight of your credentials.
- In creating an impact in people’s lives, you must be concerned and interested enough to move past being a spectator to becoming an active participant in the lives of people-identifying with them and putting yourself in their place and the flow state of love you become a positive influence in their lives.
- It is useless trying to convince people whose frame of thinking is selfish and bigoted to aid in your cause because they do not genuinely care for people and they will try to dissuade you from your cause.
- When you believe in the best in people and you reveal it to them through your actions, you will seldom be disappointed because they will strive to live according to the image you have of them. Muhammad Yunus affirms, “We don’t have any lawyers, trust begets trust. If you trust them, they will trust you. Lawyers come when you distrust each other.
- Greatness flows through the strength of character and begins with small acts of sacrifice, kindness, and generosity growing daily to impact the world.
“Poor people have skills but they let them be used by the people who have the money and they get the benefit, “Yunus says, “It is assumed human beings have to work for somebody else. That’s absolutely wrong. Historically, we were not sending job applications to anybody. We took care of ourselves and did that for hundreds of years. We have to go back to rediscover ourselves as creative people, entrepreneurs”.