FINCA - Small loans, big changes

Watch my recent Tanzania visit video blog, where I meet local people benefiting from FINCA Tanzania. For more information visit the FINCA website.

Episode two of my Social Enterprise Podcast features John Hatch, founder of FINCA, and Jeff Ashe, microfinance pioneer, educator, and author of “In Their Own Hands: How Savings Groups are Revolutionizing Development”.

Through stories of first-hand experience, we explore the evolution of the microfinance, its controversies, and its remarkable impact as a tool to help alleviate global poverty. As this was such a special episode, as well as the regular audio version, we filmed it too. Enjoy!

Spark the Change was a great opportunity to meet with social entrepreneurs in London; to share ideas, get inspired, and to remind ourselves that we are at the forefront of a truly remarkable movement.

In this presentation, I talk about how creating a shared ethos of trust within our company empowered our employees to deliver brilliant results, and helping us to meet our practical, financial, personal, and even spiritual needs.

I hope you enjoy it!

I don’t know what Santa Barbara is like now, but when I visited it in the summer of 1970, it was the least likely setting for a mass murder rampage one could imagine. I had hitchhiked out to California from New York (this was 8 years before Jeffrey Dahmer started making Hitchhiker Bouillabaise and permanently discouraged that mode of free transportation), finding myself surprised to have arrived after only four largely sleepless days, and without incident except for the time I shared the driving and fell asleep at the wheel outside of Reno, Nevada. Santa Barbara is on the coast, north of LA, on America’s scenic highway 101, nestled into the hills overlooking the cobalt blue Pacific Ocean, and clear and sunny probably 364 days of the year.

My first reaction to the news was “Here we go again”. Some mad-at-the-world young man goes down to the gun shop, loads up on handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammo, goes out to the streets and starts shooting up Dodge City. Those unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time find their lives cut short. The circle of grief starts with their parents and ripples outward like a California earthquake through their friends and relatives.

To stop this kind of thing from happening again, you would have to understand why and how it happened. My first reaction, before I knew the facts, was that the primary factor had to be the easy access to weapons and ammo in America enabled by the NRA’s relentless campaign to ensure that everyone, including terrorists and the mentally disturbed, have unlimited access to the weapons they need to kill the rest of us, quickly and efficiently. My own theory as to why we have 30,000 people a year murdered by guns in America, versus far less in other countries not embroiled in a civil war like Syria, Iraq and South Eastern Ukraine, is that killing people with guns requires no personal courage, and can be done semi-remotely, making it feel more like a video game than a heinous crime. But in Elliot Rodger’s case, he killed his first three people with a knife, so the involvement of guns only allowed him to kill more people, quickly, before the police closed in and he took his own pathetic life.

Rodger’s had been in treatment since he was eight years old. He seems to have retreated into his own world, and built a narrative that laid the blame for his isolation on pretty young women who didn’t reciprocate his affections. In his pre-rampage rant, he said he “couldn’t understand why women weren’t attracted to him.” Well, duh, as the Valley Girls would put it.

I don’t think there is a young man alive who hasn’t experienced the frustration of unrequitted affections at some point in his life. The difference is in how Rodgers dealt with it. And, yes, the “you’re a loser if you aren’t rich, adored by women and successful” culture hammers at our egos 24-7, and the younger you are, the more it bothers you. But I don’t we should look for something wrong in our culture, or, less, think that we are going to change it in time to prevent the next 1,000 rampages.

Just as I was going to hit the “post” button, the news came of another student shooting in Seattle. How many more of us have to die before America says, “Enough”?

A Grateful National, A Grateful Family Thanks You

A Grateful National, A Grateful Family Thanks You

My wife’s mother, Judy O’Hara, passed away last week, and I wrote this eulogy in her memory.

“At the very moving burial service last week, I was struck by the words of the Military Honor Guard who handed over the meticulously folded American flag to my wife, Lorraine, with the words: “A grateful nation thanks your mother for her service.” Perhaps it was the tranquility of the cemetery but it made me think back to the chaotic period during which my father performed his service, as bombadier in a B-25 squadron based in North Africa, and how that war changed people’s lives — and our lives — forever.
Our town of Washington, DC is full of important people — and a lot more who just think they are important — but what about the people who are important to us on a personal level? The people who make our lives work on a daily basis, and improve our lives in small but critical ways, who are always “there” for us in times of crisis?
Grammy was most certainly one of those. Grammy was one of those people who instinctively gravitates to the center of an extended family, moves into the emotional vacuums unintentionally left by our youthful missteps or plain bad luck, always in our corner, always knowing who needs help or reassurance to make it through a hard time.
Grammy was perhaps the only person I have ever known of whom anyone had a bad word to say. Not a word. She had no enemies, only admirers. That is a remarkable achievement, and a profound testimony to life well-lived.

Grammy shared many things with me over the course of our friendship. Fascinating things about the struggles of her family through the Depression, the time she was forced to live away from her family, while her parent struggled to stay alive. Imagine that, today. Having to give up your children because you couldn’t feed them. And imagine how such an experience, instead of making you bitter, would have turned you into one of the most generous persons on earth.

So here we are, a grateful family, gathered to honor you Grammy and express our thanks for the big difference you made in our lives. We will try to be worthy of your memory.”

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