This is one of those life-changing books. Truly. I read it just before my first-ever trip to India (hoping to also go to Bangladesh at some point, but hasn’t happened yet, alas) together with Planet India as ‘homework’ before our departure. Read together, both make for a fabulous introduction to the South Asian subcontinent.
Part memoir, part social treatise, Banker to the Poor is Muhammad Yunus’ PRE-Nobel Prize debut title about his experiences creating what would become his co-Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank. After earning his PhD from Vanderbilt University, Yunus returned to his native Bangladesh to take a post as an economics professor at Chittagong University.
While he taught lofty theories and grand ideas, he couldn’t turn away from the extreme poverty he saw every day outside the hallowed academic halls. Out amidst the people, he quickly learned that the equivalent to less than a dollar could was all that separated a hard-working woman (and her family) from the slavery-like conditions she endured to feed her family. With small sums from his own pockets, Yunus changed lives.
Together with his students, he left the classroom and headed out to the villages. Because none of the established banks would help – they would not make such tiny loans, and certainly no loans without collateral – Yunus found other means to help. And thus became the phenomenal success that is Grameen – which means ‘village’ – Bank.
While Yunus did not invent the concept of microloans, he certainly has become synonymous with the economic phenomenon. And no one, but no one, does it like Yunus. Our 11-year-old daughter kept hearing bits and pieces of this book from both her parents, and she asked for a Kiva certificate for her next holiday present (and a little something for her pet parrot). What parent is going to say ‘no’ to that? And she’s micro-loaning all over the world (although she has a preference for Latin America for now) … she hasn’t even read the book, and Yunus changed her life … no excuses for you older-than-tween folks. Go get the book NOW. Then go out and save the world, micro bits at a time.
Published: 1999, 2003 (paperback reprint)