“Bangladeshis seem very busy!”

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Grameen Foundation supporter and actress Yeardley Smith (voice of “Lisa Simpson” on the popular TV show The Simpsons) and President and CEO Alex Counts traveled to Bangladesh in late July 2010. They visited Grameen Bank and some of the other enterprises Professor Yunus has launched to accelerate poverty reduction.  This is Alex’s fourth blog post chronicling their visit.

Yeardley and I began our fifth day in Bangladesh with a two-hour meeting with Professor Yunus.  He was as warm, gracious and engaging as always.  We discussed his debut as a character on an upcoming episode of The Simpsons and Yeardley’s reactions to her field trips (her main take-away: “Bangladeshis seem very busy!”).

Dr. Yunus showed us short videos about two new social businesses being launched, the Nursing College and the network of Eye Hospitals (two hospitals and counting). We needed to shield our eyes during what felt to us like graphic footage of a cataract surgery!  Later, he explained how in most countries (and for good reasons) there are three nurses for every doctor, but in Bangladesh, it was the reverse. As a result, health care suffered.  The Nursing College, launched in March 2010, will grow from graduating 100 nurses per year to 1,000.  He also gave us a preview of one of the eye hospitals and Grameen-Danone located in the northern district of Bogra.

After our meeting, Professor Yunus spoke to a group of visitors from Pakistan, South Korea and Africa who were beginning a two-week study tour of Grameen, while we spent some time with Nazneen Sultana, head of Grameen Communications. This division handles all the IT for Grameen Bank and several other companies.  Next, Yeardley did an interview with the Daily Star, the country’s top English language daily.  Finally, we joined Professor Yunus and the group of international visitors for a quick lunch. The visitors all wanted their pictures taken with Dr. Yunus and Yeardley!

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