This I Believe

Nia - Salt Lake City, Utah
Entered on November 20, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I Can Make a Difference

“Nothing I can do about it…guess I’ll go fishing, “ my boyfriend used to say when I would rant on about politics and world poverty. I would shake my index finger in his face and say, “Yes you can!”

This I believe, I can make a difference. We live in the wealthiest nation in the world and we should make a difference.

Consider these statistics:

1 out of 3 people in our world lack basic sanitation.

1 out of 6 people in our world have inadequate access to clean water.

1 out of 6 people in our world cannot read a book or write their name.

1 out of 6 people in our world live on less $1 a day.

My childhood dream was to plant corn to feed the starving children in Africa. As I grew older, I knew that simply planting corn would not end hunger. I wanted to do something but what could I do?

In 1976, Mohammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist, met a group of 42 impoverished women who made and sold baskets. Each morning they borrowed money for their supplies from money sharks. Each evening profits from their day’s work was eaten up when they repaid their usurious loans. Yunus wanted to make a difference. He loaned the group of 42 women the equivalent of $27, never expecting to be repaid. When these illiterate women repaid him, microcredit and the Grameen Bank were born.

To date, microcredit has helped over 10 million poor women and their families overcome poverty. Yunus won the Noble Peace Prize in 2006 He is making a difference.

When I learned about Mohammad Yunus and microcredit, I knew this was the way I could make a difference. In 1999 I completed over 30 pages of IRS forms to establish the Opportunity Fund for Developing Countries (OFDC). Eight years later, with a lot of hard work and commitment our grassroots, volunteer-powered organization has raised over half a million dollars to offer a bridge to poor Kenyan women and children to improve their lives. Our volunteer Kenyan administrators work with villagers who live with no electricity or running water.

With donations:

• women are starting small businesses and feeding their families with the profits

• girls are in school, avoiding forced child marriages

• children are sleeping under treated nets, protected from malaria carrying mosquitoes

• villagers are building water wells and latrines, improving community sanitation and decreasing illness

Poli, poli, (slowly, slowly) I am making a difference. Each OFDC volunteer is making a difference as well. We are little ripples making big waves.

My Danish sister-in-law says they are raised with “what makes you think you’re so special?” Here in the States it’s “you’re special. You can do anything.” I think it should be “you’re special. You can make a difference.”

This I believe.

My former boyfriend, now husband no longer says, “Nothing I can do about it.” But he still goes fishing.