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In the wholesale market of Managua,
Is a shoeseller named Arlen Moraga.
I think, on the whole
It's good for the sole,
To be well-heeled in Nicaragua!

Is Arlen a snappy dresser or what?

Perhaps Guy Lombardo put the case a leetle better than I:

Managua, Nicaragua, what a wonderful spot,
There's coffee and bananas and a temperature hot;
So take a trip and on a ship go sailing away,
Across the agua to Managua, Nicaragua, olé! olé!

Located on the link of land connecting the two Americas, Nicaragua has had several capital cities since gaining independence, and at last, in a compromise between the two rivals of León and Granada, the capital was settled on an indigenous community halfway between, on the pleasant shores of Lake Managua, and the new city is now ten times larger than either of the rivals.

Heading down to the mall to look through Myers or Macys is not really the way they do things throughout the developing world. You want clothing - or a meal or a haircut or a chicken - you look through the market. Here you'll find Arlen, swinging her merchandise direction from clothing to shoes with far more ease and grace than Grace Brothers.

Her Kiva loan requests have been modest, and her bright clothing and anxious smiles have brought her global support. Smile, and the world smiles with you!

Kiva - loans that change lives
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Saraya's a Tanzanian mama
Who heads up a team called Obama.
Her guesthouse is the charm
Of Dar Es Salaam
But a drinks bar would give it more glamour.

There's something about Kiva microfinance loans that fills me with optimism. A feeling obviously shared by the members of the team, dressed up for the photograph.

I'm wondering why they called their group Obama. I guess it's the Tanzanian connection with US President Barack Obama. I dare say that the Kiva Team Obama thinks so as well, as they joined me in lending money to Saraya.

The group's fifth loan through Kiva, aimed at improving the guesthouse Sayara runs in Dar Es Salaam. I managed to dig up the loan page for the second loan, and there's another photo of the group:

I channel my taxi tips through Kiva, recycling the repayments into more loans and while it's not much, at $US25 a shot, it's something that makes me feel a useful part of a global team.

And isn't that what it's all about? We're all part of the same planet, the same biosphere, the same human family. Individually, there's not much any single person can do - unless maybe he's the President of the USA - but together, Yes We Can!

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There's idle time in taxidriving. After the afternoon rush to the airport, to car repairers, to and from Parliament House, there's a quiet evening period where the work is steady but slow. Some nights get busy after midnight as we take home the nightclubbers.

But there's always time to crank the seat back, reach down for a book, and read a few pages before the next passenger shows up.

Lately the reading material has been a book on changing lives. An inspirational book talking of the beneficial impact of very small loans to the world's poorest people. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank, was once a professor of economics, who looked out of his office window to a small village and wondered how the theories he was teaching related to the residents.

On investigation, he found that the poorest people in the village were very poor indeed, held back by poor access to money offered at usurious interest rates. A woman would work all day weaving intricate crafts for a profit of a few cents, which she spent on feeding her children. If she could gain just a small amount of money to escape the money-lenders who were also her raw material suppliers and the tied buyers of her work, she could prosper and profit.

From a small seed loan came a great organisation, breaking free of money-lenders, private banks and government corruption and ineptitude. Aimed at small loans to the very poorest, Grameen Bank prospered, spinning off programs and organisations across the globe.

His book, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, has been my taxicab reading material for the past week.

Read the rest of the post here.


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September 2010

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