Maybe you've heard of microbanks. They were started in rural Bangledesh in the 1970s based on the concept that the very poor are a good credit risk. For example, if you loan a rural woman the equivalent of $75 to buy a sewing machine -- at a very low rate of interest and with no collateral or credit check -- she'll pay you back bit by bit and provide income for her family. (That's a simplified version, but I think you get the idea).
The founder is Professor Mohammad Yunus, an economist. He belives small loans are a way to lift people out of poverty AND are a sound investment.
Think it's a good idea? So did the folks at the Nobel committee. They gave him the Nobel Peace Prize.
Now, he's brought his idea to the U.S. It's called Grameen (Rural) America, and the first one is in New York City.
Here's an article about it on the BBC Web site. Why did I have to go THERE to find this?
Imagine, loaning money to poor people based on trust -- which is about the only currency the very poor have -- and helping them raise themselves and their families into a better standard of living. You'd think we would have heard about this somewhere.
Well, you've heard about it now. I challenge you to read more and learn about it. There's so much good going on in this idea, I hardly know where to start. You'll see what I mean.
Want to participate? Keep your ears open, this is in the offing:
Currently, Grameen America depends on donations and payments on existing loans. But the bank is planning to apply for a credit-union licence, which will allow it to accept bigger deposits from US customers. The bank plans to use those deposits for granting more loans to thousands of people.
Photo courtesy of triangle.com