Monday, November 13, 2006

For a few dollars more 

When my daughter was in grade 8, she had to write a report on "buying" a piece of household equipment -- in her case, a stove. She had to compare prices and models, go to several stores to see what was best value, and visit the banks to arrange for a "loan".
Well, when we went to the bank, they told her they didn't lend such small amounts of money, about $500. Instead, they told her that people now used Visa cards for purchases like this.
Well, I wondered, what if you didn't HAVE a Visa card? What if you didn't make enough money to qualify for one? And what if you didn't want to pay 20 per cent interest? Does that mean you're not allowed to buy yourself a stove?
So it was interesting to see that this year's Nobel Peace Prize went to Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, who invented microcredit.
He describes his innovation thusly: "Whatever banks did, I did the opposite." Words to live by.
And now he is leading the second Global Microcredit Summit in Halifax:

Nine years ago, the Microcredit Summit Campaign set a goal to lend money to 100 million of the world's poorest people - those living on less than US$1 a day - by the end of 2005.
Of the 113 million that received loans by the end of last year, only 82 million were considered the world's poorest, but the campaign expects to reach the 100-million goal this year.
Two new goals are the focus of the Halifax summit . . . to reach another 75 million of the world's poorest by 2015, and to ensure the loans help at least 100 million people live on more than a dollar a day.
For too long, our society has just accepted idea that 'the poor will always be with us' and there was nothing individually that anybody could do about poverty except earn enough money ourselves to give some of it away to relief agencies.
Now here is a man who used the skills and knowledge he had to do create something meaningful and directly helpful to millions of people. Its an inspirational example for us all.

. . . Peter MacKay. . . admitted he was awestruck when he first met Yunus before the summit. "You are immediately struck that you're in the presence of greatness," MacKay told a crowd at the summit's opening ceremonies on Sunday. "This man who is so soft-spoken, such an understated giant of a man, has literally changed the world."

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