“To catch a dollar, you need a dollar. An empty hand cannot catch a dollar. But nobody gives you the first dollar. If you give them the first dollar they can continue to catch dollars and continue to move up,” Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus said Monday evening in Lohrfink Auditorium.
Yunus spoke about the film “To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America,” which premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival and screened for the Georgetown community last night in Lohrfink Auditorium.
Directed by Gayle Ferraro, the film follows the growth of the first U.S. branch of Grameen America in Queens, New York, and the impact of microfinance on two women’s lives.
“It is real people, real conversations. It makes a lot of sense. It makes a lot of impact in seeing people as they are in their everyday life,” Yunus said.
Within the span of one year, the branch loaned out over $1.5 million to 550 women. Grameen America built additional branches in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and has plans to continue to widen its reach to other U.S. cities, according to the Grameen America Web site.
Washington, D.C., will soon be part of the expansion. At the film screening, John Finneran, general counsel and corporate secretary of Capital One Financial Corporation, announced that Capitol One will provide a $1 million loan to Grameen America to support a new branch and microlending efforts in the Washington, D.C. area.
“Grameen’s borrowers, one by one, may not change the world on their own, but collectively, Grameen is changing the world of the borrowers and changing the world in which we all live,” Finneran said.
Yunus established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1983 with the aim of helping people out of the poverty trap by providing small loans on flexible terms and teaching basic financial principles, according to a McDonough School of Business press release.
“He believed that even the poorest of the world can bring themselves out of poverty and can build better lives for themselves because they have entrepreneurial talent and skill,” Jeffrey Reid, director of the MSB Entrepreneurship and Real Estate Initiative, said of Yunus in his introductory remarks.
In order to qualify for a loan from a Grameen America, the borrower must be a woman and must form a group of five borrowers for weekly peer-support meetings. Loans range from $500 to $3,000 with an interest rate of 15 percent, on a declining basis. No other fees or collateral are required and borrowers are on a weekly repayment schedule. Grameen’s repayment rate is currently 99 percent, according to its Web site.