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This chapter is from the book

Transforming Lives for 64 Cents Apiece

In Chittagong, Bangladesh, 14 children were born one after another to the owners of a small Muslim ornament store during the 1930s and '40s. As was common in this part of the world, five of the children perished before age 5.

As a young teen, Muhammad Yunus, the third of the remaining nine children, took a pilgrimage thousands of miles from Bangladesh, through India, to the First Pakistan National Boy Scout Jamboree. It changed the 13-year-old's life, seeding (or more likely, revealing) three very different passions that at the time were strange bedfellows. They would define his life's legacy: social work, education, and economics.

Yunus loved economics and received a Fulbright Scholarship to dive into it completely, and within the next few years, he earned a Ph.D. and became a professor in the United States.

At 32, he returned home to Bangladesh and landed a government job shortly after the country won its independence from Pakistan.6 He was bored to tears, but an epic tragedy would change his life again.

In 1974, devastating floods killed more than ten times the number of people as the 2004 tsunami—over 1.5 million people died in Bangladesh. During the time, this already poorest of poor nations struggled to recover, Yunus conceived the notion of "micro-lending"—the Grameen Bank Project—which defied traditional banking rules.

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