Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Back in Bangladesh

December 14, 2009

Alex Counts is President and CEO of Grameen Foundation, and the author of “Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World” (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). Below is Part Two of this journey to assess the state of microfinance with Grameen Foundation partners worldwide.

Muhammad Yunus and Alex Counts

Muhammad Yunus and Alex Counts

After a gap of about two years, on December 13, 2009 I returned to Bangladesh – the birthplace of the modern microfinance movement and the country where I spent six of the first nine years after I graduated college.  I came here initially driven by naïve idealism – that someone (especially at my tender age!) could catalyze the spread Grameen Bank’s approach beyond the borders of Bangladesh, so it could to become a global (rather than simply national) anti-poverty strategy.  As I was to learn, even by the time I arrived in December 1988, that process was under way – a process that was much more complex than I had imagined, and one that has been the focus of Grameen Foundation since it was established in 1997.

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Journey to Morocco

August 19, 2009

Emily Snodden is a rising senior at Westminster School in Connecticut.

Emily at a Village Meeting

Emily at a Village Meeting

The beads of sweat had long ago dripped down my spine and saturated my blouse with moisture as we approached what seemed to be a village. The scattered houses made from decaying plywood, tin, and mud looked similar to the huts I see on commercials late at night trying to raise money for starving children. However, I saw a few cable dishes weighing down the roofs they rested on and realized the slight prosperity in this devastated surrounding. Our guide paused outside the walls of the village to wait for members of our group who had fell behind.

As we waited a few locals passed, each person radiating in gratefulness. One elder man made me wonder, ignorantly, what he had to be grateful for. I guessed from his darkened, worn skin that he had spent many years laboring in the scorching sun and assumed he has little to show for his efforts. Even so as he passed atop his donkey and the inconceivable amounts of lavender he carried into the village, he shot me a welcoming, toothless smile that sent shivers down my sweat drenched back. When we finally entered the village, a woman, holding one child on her hip and carrying another in a shawl that hung around her neck, was bent over a stream scooping water into a metal pale.

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Reflections of our journey (Part 5)

July 23, 2009

Kathleen M. Snoddon recently returned from Morocco where she was able to witness microfinance first-hand. This is the final entry in a five-part blog series about her journeys.

FONDEP Borrower

FONDEP Borrower

Having left Baiya’s with apologies for not being able to stay longer, we approached our original meeting place and could see our companions gathered and waiting our arrival.  It was hot and they were both exhilarated and spent by the activities and encounters of the last several hours. I wanted to stay longer. I wanted to spend time with each and every   woman who had made the effort to forge a future for themselves and their families.  I wanted to hear what their aspirations were for themselves and their children.

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Reflections of our journey (Part 4)

July 21, 2009

Kathleen M. Snoddon recently returned from Morocco where she was able to witness microfinance first-hand. This is the fourth in a five-part blog series about her journeys.

Memouna and her goats

Fennan and her goats

Fennan appeared to be in her early thirties.  She was pregnant with her fourth child.  Her other children were gathered around her, hiding behind her skirt and peering curiously at our group. Her loan from FONDEP had been 2000 Moroccan Dirham, about $250.  With it, she purchased two goats.  That was three years ago.  Her goats have since multiplied.  She has six.  Each morning, Fennan milks her goats and walks to the nearest market to sell the milk.  The trek is 7 kilometers each way, 14 kilometers each morning. This provides her with 30 Moroccan Dirham a day in income, $3.70.  Her husband, like most men in the village is a farm laborer. He works seasonally to plant and harvest the olive and apple trees and other products including lavender and fava beans that are grown in the countryside on the land owned by the “wealthy” men from the city. Fennan’s earnings provide a steady income for the family.

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Reflections of our journey (Part 3)

July 15, 2009

Kathleen M. Snoddon recently returned from Morocco where she was able to witness microfinance first-hand. This is the third in a five-part blog series about her journeys.

GF Supporters Visit to Learn about MicrofinanceMuhammad Yunus’ model for non-collateralized, small loans consists of the formation of groups or “pods” that serve as a support system to guarantee that any one person does not default on their loan. Groups are formed with women who usually know each other and are, preferably, engaged in different enterprises.  This peer system has proven very effective and provides more than just monetary fall back in the case of sickness or an event that interferes with a borrower’s ability to make her loan payments. There is an emotional support system inherent in this structure. (more…)

Reflections of our journey (Part 2)

July 10, 2009

Kathleen M. Snoddon recently returned from Morocco where she was able to witness microfinance first-hand. This is the second in a five-part blog series about her journeys.

Microfinance Clients at a borrower meeting

Microfinance Clients at a borrower meeting

At the top of the ridge leading into the village, we encountered a small group of tattooed-faced Berber women washing their clothes and cooking utensils in the rudimentary but resourceful aqueduct system that ran the perimeter of the village.  They seemed curious but shy.  We had been advised not to take anyone’s pictures without their permission. Some of older generation still believes that a photo can somehow capture their soul.

Descending the dirt path, we heard a cackle of excitement.  As we reached our destination we saw a large Berber carpet laid on the ground under a grove of trees.  Hakima had told us to expect to meet with 6 to 8 women.  The plan was to meet together as a group to exchange greetings and stories and then to split into smaller groups to accompany the borrowers to their homes and places of business.  In this rural village, most businesses are run in or around each of their homes.

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Meeting borrowers in a Berber village in Morocco (Part 1)

July 8, 2009

Kathleen M. Snoddon recently returned from Morocco where she was able to witness microfinance first-hand. This is the first in a five-part blog series about her journeys.

Woman with mule heads to market

Woman with mule heads to market

We had been walking for about two and ½ hours and had stopped just outside the village to allow some of the stragglers in our group to catch up.  Hakima, the loan officer from FONDEP was expecting us.  Earlier in the week, she had gone into the Berber village to tell her borrowers that some adults and students were coming to visit and would like to meet them and learn about how their small loans had helped them and their families.

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