The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time
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Hired by ForbesTraveler.com to review some of the most luxurious accommodations on Earth, and then inspired by a chance encounter in Dubai with the impoverished workers whose backbreaking jobs create such opulence, Bob Harris had an epiphany: He would turn his own good fortune into an effort to make lives like theirs better. Bob found his way to Kiva.org, the leading portal through which individuals make microloans all over the world: for as little as $25-50, businesses are financed and people are uplifted. Astonishingly, the repayment rate was nearly 99%, so he re-loaned the money to others over and over again.
After making hundreds of microloans online, Bob wanted to see the results first-hand, and in The International Bank of Bob he travels from Peru and Bosnia to Rwanda and Cambodia, introducing us to some of the most inspiring and enterprising people we've ever met, while illuminating day-to-day life-political and emotional-in much of the world that Americans never see. Told with humor and compassion, The International Bank of Bob brings the world to our doorstep, and makes clear that each of us can, actually, make it better.
Later, Daniel and I and a driver named Wilberforce—the surname of a British politician who fought to end the slave trade, still sometimes used as a given name in his honor—ride toward the Tanzanian border. We listen to gospel music praising Yesu (Jesus) while we chat. The melody is soothing, and the three of us chill out, looking out the windows at ladies in traditional wraps walking under colorful parasols, children with a soccer ball skipping on the sidewalk, and workers wearing donorwear jerseys from the Green Bay Packers and Ohio State.
I. S. [Management Information System] at each branch…” Overexpansion was the cause of SELFINA’s troubles. But unlike in Bosnia, it appears this wasn’t selfishness or profit-seeking, just a desire to do more good for more women too quickly—literally the best of intentions. Victoria’s ambition to do good had simply outpaced the ability to build infrastructure to keep up with it—all surely complicated by the financial crisis in the West. Victoria’s fifteen years of outreach to disadvantaged clients might be unusual back in America, but her organization’s financial situation was not.
My dad worked in a General Motors factory, and my mom worked part-time in a dime store. When I was little, my sister and I shared one small bedroom, Mom and Dad shared the other, and our one tiny bathroom directly faced the front door, which led to a few awkward moments. But it was home. Dad passed away almost twenty years ago, but I’ll always remember him sitting exhausted on our front steps on steamy August nights, drinking his beer and staring into the middle distance. As I grew up, I slowly realized he was constantly trying to recover from another long day of heavy work, scrounging up the gumption to face another day just like it, and another, and another.
I catch myself just as Daniel begins the next burst of translation. “Yvonne came from Gikongoro,” Daniel says, thinking nothing of it. Daniel then explains that Gikongoro is a small town to the south, perhaps two and a half hours away. Daniel assumes that I have not read about Gikongoro. I have heard of Gikongoro, I say softly. I have heard of Gikongoro because in the second week of April 1994, tens of thousands of people there were huddled in churches, fearing for their lives. Large numbers of the Hutu majority had begun killing members of the Tutsi minority in Kigali, the capital, where we now sit.
226 At the far end of the far end, the road stops, crossed by a small creek. You get out of the car—a giant shiny spaceship, compared to the surroundings—and cross to the other side via three narrow fishing boats, bobbing crossways in the water side-by-side as a temporary bridge. One step, catch your balance, second step, whoa, third step, jump. It feels like crossing the tracks to the wrong side of town on the wrong side of town. This is where I found a mother of five named Mom. 227 As I arrive, Mom is cleaning the hardwood floor of her home with a large thatch brush, literally beating any dirt out of the house.