In a destitute country facing famine, natural disasters, and a beleaguered government, Muhammad Yunus saw an opportunity to help people one by one, and built an organization of others helping poor people help themselves. Yunus's Grameen Bank, through micro-lending of small loans of toward local agriculture and commerce, has seen over a 90% repayment of loans and helped one out of a thousand people on earth. Beyond loans, Grameen fosters community development through regular meetings with borrowers and group educational programs. This enterprise of meeting the needs of the poor through enabling struggling people with resources to become their own producers earned Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank the Nobel Peace Prize -- rather than the prize for Economics; this was tribute to the meaningful stability created by empowering the disenfranchised.
Going further, Yunus and the Grameen Bank created businesses that partnered with major companies to serve the people of Bangladesh, such as Grameen Danone, a company that sells nutritious yogurt to inner city children made with milk bought from outlying farmers. As Yunus says, "To me, poor people are like Bonsai trees. There is nothing wrong with their seeds, only society didn't give them the base to grow on."
Holly Mosher's new film Bonsai People: Celebrating the Work of Muhammad Yunus details this process of development through following women borrowers in small villages as they use their Grameen loans to go to work for themselves, as well as through extensive exclusive commentary from Muhammad Yunus himself. Entrepreneurial projects range from buying livestock to growing vegetables to selling fruit to buying a cellphone that other villagers can pay to use. Following several women over a few years, the audience is able to see how these diligent mothers and wives are able to turn their struggles around, and even prosper in some cases, intimately filmed by Mosher. Besides visible progress like improvements to their one-room homes or a field of crops, the film subjects themselves are noticeably prouder, healthier and more confident.
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