July 06, 2010
After four meals, five films, and 8 hours of sleep on the plane, I finally arrived in India, where I had been dreaming of coming for past two years. Although I didn’t like waiting at the Amsterdam international Airport for almost five hours for the connecting flight, the journey was alright. Some people on the plane couldn’t even watch movies as there are some technically problems, but thankfully I wasn’t the unlucky one. PHEW! On the plane, I read Mohammad Yunus’ Banker to the poor: Micro-lending and the battle against world poverty. I enjoyed this book because from his book, I could know about his personality and background, which was more than what he have achieved in poverty alleviation.
It wasn’t all easy for him to establish the Grameen Bank and he wasn’t very knowledge in banking system like professional bankers. But his passion and dedication worked him through to what he has accomplished so far in poverty alleviation. The fact that how he is an ordinary person, nor a brilliant banker or one of richest people in Bangladesh, inspired me even more to be passionate on the issues of poverty and assured my reasons to be in India. A few people asked me on the plane and at the airport, “What brings you to India?” Although many think it’s so cool that I’m going to India and a donor of the Center of South Asian Studies kindly granted me $3000 for this wonderful opportunity, some of my friends repeatedly tell me how they don’t understand why I would go to India. Dangerous, dirty, and poor. That’s what they have in their mind when they think of developing countries. But I see them quite differently. In those countries, I see courageous, hopeful, innocent people with a lot of potential in themselves.
South Korea was one of the poorest countries, incompatibly poorer than other developing countries, just sixty years ago in 1950s. However, it is now the 11st richest countries with the world's largest shipping industry and everybody knows many Korea companies like Samsung and LG. How could this happen? How this “Miracle of Han River” happened? Are Koreans just supermen? Do we (Koreans) have some special abilities that others in other developing countries do not have? I don’t think so at all. The only thing we were left with after the bloody war was passion, and this made it possible like a quote says, "a strong passion for any object will ensure success..." Although many people suffered, somewhat the government successfully mobilized the economy and people to bring the country back together. This miracle can happen again. Korea, Taiwan, China, Singapore. A number of countries has done it, and this also can happen in India, too, in a greater scale than any other countries. There should be a change that can mobilize and stimulate despaired people to live more hopeful life. This cannot be done by themselves, but can be done by some dedicated educated people like Professor Yunus and his student like they have done with innovative Granmeen system of microfinance.
This was one step forward for poverty alleviation and is leading to the right direction. However, there is a long way to go. Recently, there have been more notable opposing perceptions on the effectiveness of microfinance as a means of targeting poverty alleviation. An increasing number of scholars assert or agree that microfinance does not reach the poorest of the poor. How can we, or rather how can I really help the poorest of the poor, who are dying for not having 20 cents a day while my dad spends more than $40,000 on me every year for the education and living costs? On the very first day, very first few hours in India, on the way to the guest house from the airport, I already have witnessed people who sleep on the street next to a pile of rubbish, families living under a small tent on the street, and a gathering of teenagers at 2 AM. I’m not educated enough, I’m not rich, I do not have any power, but I came to India to experience the reality of poverty and write it in my senior thesis, which is on the topic of “Under what conditions, microfinance programs the most effective alleviate poverty?” So that I can share my experience and my thought on the issue with people, who don’t have this kind of opportunity that I have. Hopefully, I can use this month productively enough so that I will have more practical answers to my question. Hopefully, the microfinance institution, Hindustan Lvt Ptd., where I will be working from tomorrow, will graciously share some information and their thought on the problems of existing microfinance programs. I would be thrilled if they are willing to help me to conduct some field-research. FIGURES CROSSED. Again, BIG THANKS to the donor of the CSAS Summer in South Asia fellowship for this wonderful opportunity!
Posted by minjoo at July 6, 2010 07:01 PM