Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Whole Planet Foundation Helping Through Microfinance

By Steve Wanta, July 18, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Steve Wanta
In my humble opinion, poverty is the most pressing problem facing the world today. It either magnifies the devastation of other global issues like HIV or is the direct cause of epidemics like vitamin A deficiency in infants.  The 1.2 billion people living on less than $1/day confront a fight for survival on a daily basis.  Their plight has been well documented.  Equally, people are recognizing the poor’s inalienable ability to be their own change agent with the rise of microfinance.  This was never more apparent than with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, which acknowledged the direct link between peace and prosperity. Recently, I traveled to New York City to visit newly inaugurated Grameen America, which is bringing this method of microlending to the United States.  The women here were not starving or struggling to clothe their children but they shared the same excitement for a new future that I have seen before on the faces of poor women from Guatemala to Bangladesh.  This sort of relative poverty is less publicized and far easier for people to dismiss but is the root cause of many other problems facing our society. The women that I visited in New York reminded me of the borrowers funded by Whole Planet Foundation in the Grameen Costa Rica program.  For the most part, they are literate, have crossed the extreme poverty threshold and have a hope for a better future for their families.  Although these women may not need to fight the risk of malaria or starvation, they are confronted with higher rates of crime and drugs, impacting their ability to raise their children in a safe environment.  In Limón Costa Rica, where Grameen operates, there is a pervasive problem with crime and drug trafficking that crosses this region en route from Colombia to the United States and elsewhere. This creates instability and uncertainty in these communities, which threatens to widen the disparity gap, both educational and economic, for these relative poor. Even in the face of skyrocketing gas prices, a global food crisis and a tenuous world economy, it is these microentrepreneurs that give me comfort.  After visiting borrowers, I am always inspired by the power of individuals, even during the most difficult of times, to prevail.  Whether the extreme or relative poor, the story is the same; there are too few opportunities for women who live in a financial system that has forgotten them.  For communities like Jackson Heights, New York and Limón, Costa Rica, microfinance is a tool for women, and in some instances men, to capitalize on their skills so that they themselves have the financial wherewithal to overcome any obstacle, which in turn creates healthier, safer communities.

 

8 Comments

Comments

james bone says ...
Thank you for your good work. You said: "In my humble opinion, poverty is the most pressing problem facing the world today." IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, POPULATION CONTROL IS THE MOST PRESSING PROBLEM FACING THE WORLD TODAY. Regards, Jim
07/18/2008 3:25:02 PM CDT
Steven Mandzik says ...
Wow, what great stories. I would love to hear the projects that they work on, their rate of success, and is whole foods helping out local small farmers with these loans?
07/18/2008 11:41:46 AM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Steven We offer loans to our local producers in the US (and soon UK and Canada) through the Local Producers Loan Program. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/locallygrown/lplp/index.html
07/18/2008 1:36:52 PM CDT
felicia easley says ...
Change your thoughts and you can change your world- norman vincent peale
07/18/2008 10:54:57 AM CDT
Angela Bolton says ...
I have written about this foundation in a marketing class and find your actions commendable. Thank you for hard work!
09/04/2008 9:59:51 AM CDT
Philip Sansone says ...
In a comment, Jim states that he believes that population control is the most pressing problem facing the world today. This is a good topic for further discussion. Studies consistently show that wealth creation (poverty reduction) is the best solution to control population growth. All over the world, and this is even true for the world's poorest communities, as income goes up, family size goes down. This may seem counterintuitive, but it won’t once you understand the psyche of the poor. To the poor and in particular the rural farming poor, having many children insures a "free" labor pool to the farm, and is the only form of social security for the parents once they are too old or sick to work. The more children that can survive to adulthood, the better the chances will be that someone will be there to support the aging parents. Once income goes up, family size tends to decrease, because the income source is usually something other than subsistence farming. Plus, the additional wealth allows for higher living standards, better education and nutrition for the children, who, now that they are better fed and cared for have a lower mortality rate. More survive children, so less are needed to be born and the overall feeling of wellbeing increases so that smaller family size results; hence, the best population control is poverty reduction. Philip Executive Director Whole Planet Foundation
09/17/2008 7:45:18 AM CDT
Luke says ...
Hey Steve! This is really great what you are doing. My mate Christian Wells sent me over here. I started a lending team on Kiva to get people involved in microfinance also. It cool to hear the stories of life change. Cheers, Luke
07/20/2009 10:46:36 PM CDT
Jim Sullivan says ...
Keep up the good fight. Your favorite uncle, Shamus
04/15/2011 8:56:47 AM CDT