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From Begging Bowls to Cash Boxes

"Think about what it means to sit with a mother who, after toiling all day on making a bamboo stool, has enough only to starve with her children," he said, sipping hot tea. Like her parents before her, she was forced to pay off local bullies and brokers like an indentured serf, leaving her just pennies per chair on which to subsist.

He sought out every person in the village of Jobra who lived like this, and met 42 families in "horrible suffering." In 1976, he gave unsecured loans—with no collateral and no credit history—to each of them. Yunus loaned a total of $27—about 64 cents each was all it took to lift them from starvation to the first steps toward transformation. The small loans were enough to enable the villagers to start small businesses and sell their own special products.

By 2005, Grameen Bank had invested almost $5 billion in millions of families. Yunus' now famous "dream was to turn begging bowls into cash boxes." Yunus turned his many different passions into one compelling mission that has also spawned similar programs the world over, from Harlem to Sri Lanka.

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