Actress Yeardley Smith Donates $1.14 Million to Support Microfinance
Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson on the award-winning animated television series, The Simpsons, has joined the ranks of microfinance’s most generous and visionary supporters with a combined donation of $1.14 million to Grameen Foundation and Fonkoze, a Haitian microfinance institution.
November 2, 2009 - The donation of $900,000 to Grameen Foundation will support a new initiative geared toward expanding micro-loans and other sustainable opportunities for people living at the very bottom of the economic ladder. The donation of $240,000 to Fonkoze is one of the largest individual gifts the organization has ever received and will help strengthen its institutional support for its front line staff.
Smith was first introduced to microfinance after seeing 2006 Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus on Oprah. Inspired to become actively involved, she traveled to Haiti, accompanied by Grameen Foundation president Alex Counts, to visit with women in remote villages to learn how microfinance and complementary health and literacy services improve the quality of life for them and their families.
“I’m greatly inspired by people who demonstrate initiative and perseverance. I saw with my own eyes how eager these women are to be self-sustaining and that the smallest bit of success can rebuild a person from the inside out,” said Smith.
Microfinance has already provided opportunities to more than 150 million people, but there is still more to be done to reach and benefit the very poorest—those living on less than $1 a day—with microfinance services and related non-financial services, such as health care and adult education.
Through its new initiative to improve the practice of microfinance that focuses on those who need it most, Grameen Foundation will identify and replicate solutions that will enable the most marginalized people to access critical resources and build reliable businesses. Smith is providing the seed financing to launch this program.
“I was inspired by Yeardley’s willingness to learn more about microfinance by travelling to Haiti to hear firsthand from microfinance clients,” said Alex Counts, president of Grameen Foundation. “We look forward to working with her in the years ahead, and hope her generosity will prompt others to support us in helping the poorest people improve their lives and escape poverty through microfinance.”
Smith was deeply moved by Fonkoze’s dedicated employees and wanted to direct her substantial gift toward a program that would enhance their benefits, promote employee productivity and increase retention.
In welcoming the gift, Anne Hastings, Fonkoze’s executive director said, “We appreciate Yeardley’s insightful and meaningful gift to the people who work on the front lines every day, often in difficult terrain and conditions, to serve Fonkoze’s clients. The staff was very excited after we announced the gift because it was the first time someone has focused on them in such a unique and meaningful way.”
About Grameen Foundation
Grameen Foundation, a global nonprofit organization, helps the world’s poorest people access financial services and technology solutions by providing financing, technology support and management strategies to the local organizations that serve them. It also spearheads technology initiatives that create new microbusiness opportunities for the poor, provide telecommunications access for the world's rural poor, and improve their access to health and agriculture information and other services. Founded in 1997, Grameen Foundation has offices in Washington, D.C., Seattle, Washington, Ghana and the Philippines. Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is a founding member of its board of directors, and now serves as director emeritus. For more information, please visit www.grameenfoundation.org.
Fonkoze is Haiti’s alternative bank for the organized poor. It is a family of three institutions working together towards a single compelling mission: building the economic foundation for democracy in Haiti by providing the rural poor – mostly women – with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. Visit www.fonkoze.org