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Emily and Madelyn’s Excellent Adventure

July 21, 2010

Veteran marketing executive Madelyn Hammond, President of Madelyn Hammond & Associates, and Emily Lynch, West Coast Coordinator for shoe designer Christian Louboutin, recently accompanied GF staff on a site visit to Peru to witness the impact of microfinance.  Once acquaintances, and now lifelong friends, both are dedicated supporters of the Grameen Foundation.

Six people who didn’t really know each other went to the Amazon to see Grameen Foundation and their local partners in action.  Four days later we were friends for life and would never look at the world the same way again. This special expedition to Pucallpa, Peru was a combination of divine intervention and supreme coincidence.

Madelyn (left) and Emily in Peru.

Almost a year ago, the world famous shoe designer, Christian Louboutin, was given a list of ten charities for him to review and then select one to really get involved with. Without knowing a lot about Grameen, the idea of microfinance appealed to him and that these loans were primarily made to women made it even more perfect.  Emily Lynch, who is the West Coast Coordinator for Christian Louboutin, and responsible for overseeing their Charity associations in the U.S., was charged with spearheading the project.  She knew to really get Christian involved would require first-hand knowledge of how a “charitable gift becomes a loan” and actually meet the “borrowers”.

I’m a marketing executive and was already somewhat familiar with Grameen through Yeardley Smith, (the voice of Lisa Simpson), who was a former client. Yeardley’s two trips to Haiti really inspired and made me want to experience a Grameen trip on my own.

We were expertly guided (and educated!) through various towns in Peru by several Grameen and Prisma (their local microfinance partner) associates. Alberto Solano (Grameen’s Regional CEO), Mary Irvine (Grameen’s Regional Director of Development), Diego Fernandez Concha (Director, Prisma), and Lori Ospina (Grameen’s Program Assistant).

Here is our Story: Ten Things Emily and Mad Learned on our Trip to the Amazon

The Borrowers:

1.       …are resourceful. There is a misconception that poor means lazy. What poor is…is a lack of opportunity. The women we met all have 4 or 5 jobs depending on weather, time of year, crops or children.

2.       …are resilient.  The women had an attitude of “whatever needs to be done will be done”. We saw an incredible work ethic coupled with practicality and strong survival undertones.

3.       …just like other women. The mothers want the same things all mothers want—healthy, educated, successful children. We saw women who were “Avon saleswomen” [the equivalent of?]and took pride in their appearance although they were dirt poor. All the women had the same hopes and dreams we all share.

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