People in the News: Muhammad Yunus | Level 8 | By Little Fox

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[Series Introduction]

Young newscasters Ben and Olivia introduce well-known people from around the world. These “people in the news” have accomplished extraordinary things in science, sports, music, business, politics, and more!


BEN: Hi, Little Fox readers, and welcome to a new edition of People in the News. This week we'll be talking about Muhammad Yunus. He's a banker and economist who has dedicated his life to helping people escape poverty—isn't that right, Olivia?

OLIVIA: It sure is, Ben. And when you learn more about Muhammad, it's easy to see why he became so passionate about this cause. He was born in 1940 in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world. As a young boy, Muhammad was influenced by his mother's generosity. Even though the family wasn't wealthy, she always gave what she could to beggars who came to the door. Neither she nor Muhammad's father was able to finish school, but they both wanted their kids to get a good education. There were ten children in the family, and every one of them finished college.
Muhammad was a very hard-working student. After college he was offered a Fulbright Scholarship, which allowed him to travel to the U.S. to study. He earned a PhD in economics and then worked in the U.S. as a college professor. In 1972 he accepted a position teaching economics at Chittagong University in Bangladesh.
Back home, Muhammad was overwhelmed by the conditions surrounding him. The country's coast had been severely damaged by a cyclone, and tens of thousands of people had died from a horrible famine. Now the streets were crowded with people who were so starved, they looked like skeletons.
Muhammad began to realize that the abstract economic theories he taught to students every day were not going to do anything to help the starving people around him. So one day Muhammad took his students on a field trip to a rural village.

BEN: Hmm . . . interesting. What did they do there?

OLIVIA: They talked to poor people, to learn more about their lives. That day Muhammad met a woman who made bamboo stools for a living. The woman explained that she had no money to buy the bamboo, so she had to borrow money from a bamboo dealer. After the woman sold her stools, most of her earnings went right back to the bamboo dealer. Since he charged her lots of interest, she was left with almost no profit—only two cents for every stool she sold.
The woman also told Muhammad something very important: if she had just twenty cents, she wouldn't have to borrow money from the bamboo dealer. Then she'd be able to increase her profits and have a much better life. The woman's story affected Muhammad deeply. He was amazed that all she needed to rise out of poverty was twenty cents.
Muhammad talked to other women in the village, and the women all had similar stories. So he decided to try an experiment. He lent money to 42 women, spending just $27, less than one dollar per person. He set very fair terms for these loans and simply trusted the borrowers to pay back the money when they could. By giving the businesswomen tiny or "micro" loans, he was able to help them earn profits.
Aware that he didn't have enough money to keep making loans himself, Muhammad went to a bank for help. But the banker there didn't trust poor people to pay the money back; he said he could only lend money to people who had money. Muhammad thought this was
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