Friday, October 13, 2006

a Nobel honor for a noble strategy

Like a prophet ahead of her time, my college roommate Erin saw the greatness, potential, and efficiency of the Grameen Bank long before it garnered the accolades and international recognition it received this week.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee commented, "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty."

I wholeheartedly concur. Living in a "developing country", I can saw without qualification that one of the greatest needs in economically struggling places like Nicaragua is creative microfinancing for people with good ideas and a strong work ethic but a shortage of available capital, or what non-business people like me call "start-up dollars". One of the most exciting things happening here in this critical area of microenterprise is an initiative called NicaMade, which is providing a regular market for products produced by 4 different communities here (ranging from pottery to metal art to hand-painted cards to hand-embroidered purses). It is amazing what a difference a small amount of stable income can do to change the lives of these communities. Those of you who read this blog and get my newsletter know about the changes I have seen in El Ojoche as the people now take pride in their long tradition of working with clay. In addition, I have talked to a woman in Santa Maria where they have learned to embroider, whose natural business instincts were dormant until NicaMade entered the picture, and now she is thinking outside the box to develop new markets for her communities' work in Costa Rica!

The reason microenterprise matters is because it is not just about money at the end of the day (though for families who only eat once a day if they are lucky, more money is certainly a critical issue). In the long run, though, it's about realizing that we have all been created with gifts, talents, abilities, things to contribute to our families, our communities, and this world. It's about the way microenterprise releases creativity and builds self-confidence. It's about the way it empowers individuals and encourages collaboration. It's about how our identity as "co-laborers with Christ" and "stewards of creation" is nurtured through our recognition that we CAN be agents of transformation, even as we are transformed from the inside out.

Congratulations, GB.

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