Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why does micro-credit work?

If you have never heard of micro-credit and its current impact around the world I suggest you watch the video. Let us know what you think and if you think it works - get involved. Mohican supports and so does Bill Gates. Here is a letter from Bill and Melinda Gates.

Every day, more than 1,000 children die because they didn’t get a 15-cent measles vaccine. Almost 3 billion people around the world live on less than $2 per day. Here in the United States, only one-third of the students who start the ninth grade will graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed in college and work. A disproportionate number of those who fall behind will be African American and Hispanic.

Our foundation and our partners are trying to solve these problems because we believe that all lives have equal value, no matter where they are being lived—in rich countries with high-quality health care or poor countries with almost none; in well-off suburbs with shiny new high schools or in disadvantaged communities where most kids drop out.

We also believe that from those to whom much is given, much is expected. We benefited from great schools, great health care, and a vibrant economic system. That is why we feel a tremendous responsibility to give back to society.

Starting from these core values, our foundation is guided by some key principles.

First, we concentrate on a few areas of giving so we can learn about the best approaches and have the greatest possible impact. We choose these issues by asking: which problems affect the most people, and which have been neglected in the past?

Our Global Health Program focuses on diseases and health conditions that cause the most illness and death and receive the least attention and resources—diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that barely exist in rich countries but still kill millions in the developing world. And AIDS, which infects 5 million new people every year, the vast majority of them in poor countries.

We also believe in the power of science and technology to improve people’s lives. In recent years, the world has made tremendous advances in fields ranging from biology to information technology, and yet not everybody is benefiting from these innovations. Our goal is to help apply science and technology to the problems of the neediest people.

As an example, our Global Development Program works with an organization called Opportunity International on a relatively simple technology that is helping women in Malawi save their children from destitution. In Malawi, life expectancy is about 37 years. When a man dies, his parents and siblings often seize his possessions and his money, leaving his wife and children with nothing.

Opportunity International helps by distributing “smart cards.” These cards are similar to our ATM cards, and they let women keep money in super-secure savings accounts that are protected by a thumbprint scanner. Only the cardholder herself can access the account, using her unique thumbprint. Smart cards have become so popular in Malawi that they’re now regularly given as gifts at wedding showers.

Finally, our foundation is deeply committed to the importance of partnerships. All of the issues we’re tackling will require the talents and resources of many people and many different organizations.

To effect lasting change, we must collaborate with governments, business, and other nonprofit organizations. Our work with high schools in the United States, for instance, involves dozens of partners, from grass-roots community organizations all the way up to national policymakers. Changing high schools will require the efforts of parents, teachers, school administrators, school districts, a range of organizations devoted to school reform, and government leaders at every level. We need this kind of coordinated approach to make sure we prepare every child for college, work, and citizenship.

These are just some of the ways we think about the work we do. We are optimistic about the future. We were deeply gratified by the gift Warren Buffett gave our foundation in June 2006, which will allow us to roughly double our grantmaking starting in 2009. Warren’s incredible gift inspires us and makes us even more aware of the opportunity and deep responsibility we have to make a lasting impact for people in need.

Some of the problems we work on already have solutions, and our focus needs to be on getting those solutions into the hands of the people who need them most. Other problems have never been given the attention they deserve, and we believe focused efforts can lead to amazing advances. The challenges we face are great, but so is the opportunity to improve people’s lives.

Bill Gates
Melinda French Gates

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