Dear Grameen Foundation supporter,
The end of a year offers opportunity for introspection and reflection on the twelve months past. As I look back, I am thankful and grateful for a 2009 full of learning, of collaboration, of struggle, of support, and most importantly, of empowering the poor in Asia – China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines - with the tools to transform their lives.
In January, I started my new role as CEO, Asia Region for Grameen Foundation (GF). It is an incredible job and I have seen and learned so much. In May, I visited Inner Mongolia. There the power of microfinance and its impact on a poor woman and her community was reinforced. The village we visited had been transformed in ways almost unimaginable as women invested proceeds from their loans in goats, gaining incremental income from the sale of milk, wool and ultimately, meat. Their progress was evidenced by the fact that their animals now took shelter in their former homes. We need to ensure local microfinance institutions have the funding necessary to reach more poor households as we did in the Philippines in August, providing a US$5 million guarantee to support a US$10 million bond issue, the first of its kind in southeast Asia, to a leading Filipino microfinance institution.
In September, I visited southern India where GF is exploring opportunities to support the growth of the energy industry – specifically home lighting and fuel efficient cookstoves – as we have done and continue to do in microfinance and technology. The power of just one light bulb for a poor family cannot be underestimated as it allows for extended working hours, longer study, and critically, replacement of homemade kerosene wicks that leave a putrid and thick black smoke covering the walls, the skin and lungs.
I also learned that to a poor person, “profitable” is not about how much one earns on a business, but how steady and predictable the cash flow from the business is. I was taught by a poor woman serving as a Village Phone Operator outside of Jakarta, selling minutes of airtime to her village with support from GF. I was surprised to hear that amongst all her products at a local food stall, the phone was the most “profitable” of her businesses even though because she and her family could rely upon the cash flow day-to-day.
I want to thank you for your interest and in and support of Grameen Foundation over the past twelve months. I would ask that as the holiday season approaches, please consider participating in our new regular giving program –USD$27 on the 27th of each month, where $27 represents the amount Professor Yunus first lend in Bangladesh more than 30 years ago – and our new Ingenuity Fund. We look forward to collaborating with you over the coming year. Also, please take a look at our newly revised website at www.grameenfoundation.org
Warmest wishes from me and our team across Asia for a Happy and Healthy Holidays!