He isn't a head of state nor is he one of the world's wealthiest people, but Dr. Muhammad Yunus found a way to help more than 100 million people around the globe step out of poverty. For his efforts, Dr. Yunus has been awarded a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Yunus was born the third of 14 children in Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations on earth. He excelled in school and was eventually awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Vanderbilt University to earn his Ph.D.
Upon returning to Bangladesh to teach, the country was in famine. "I was teaching…and feeling helpless. I teach beautiful theories of economics, and people are going hungry," Dr. Yunus says. "I said, 'Forget about those theories. I'm a human being, I can go and touch another person's life.'"
He decided to do "a lot of little things" and discovered something revolutionary in the process. By loaning—not giving—money to those in need, he found the cycle of poverty could be broken.
He lent a mere $27 to a group of bamboo weavers in a local village. "I gave the money from my pocket and they were very excited about it," Dr. Yunus says. "I thought maybe I should try to continue this." Grateful for the money, those borrowers paid back the loan. And that was the beginning of Dr. Yunus's groundbreaking Grameen Bank.
Changing the world one family at a time, Dr. Yunus's bank has lent more than $6 billion worldwide. The average loan? Only $130. The repayment rate for the borrower-owned bank? An astounding 99 percent!
Dr. Yunus's bank lends what he calls "micro-credit." The bank requires no collateral. "The fact that you are a human being, that's a good enough introduction for us," Dr. Yunus says. Thanks to his efforts, 58 percent of his borrowers have gotten out of poverty.
Even more unique is the fact that 97 percent of Grameen Bank's borrowers are women. "If a woman is making money, the children become immediate beneficiaries," Dr. Yunus says. "They went to school, they are better fed, they are better clothed."
Despite the many lives he's touched, Dr. Yunus says he never dreamed of winning the Nobel Prize. "I was just trying to solve a local problem," he says. "You get millions of Nobel Prizes just going there, being with people with big smiles. … Life has changed for them."
The movie Blood Diamond
is set in Sierra Leone during the country's civil war. The West African nation is rich in some of the world's most valuable resources like gold and diamonds, and therefore became a target for corruption.
During the 1990s, a group called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), began brutally attacking villages to gain control of diamond mines. Rebel forces had a horrific name for their mission: "Operation Destroy Every Living Thing." The rebels were notorious for murdering, raping, and chopping off limbs of tens of thousands of civilians. Not even children were spared. The RUF kidnapped and brainwashed children, turning them into child soldiers.
Two million people were forced to flee, creating a refugee crisis in neighboring countries Liberia and Guinea.
The civil war finally came to an end in 2002 with aid from British and United Nations troops. More than 50,000 lives were lost, and Sierra Leone became the poorest nation on earth. It's estimated that more than 50,000 people are still scattered in refugee camps.
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars band started with singer Reuben (above on drums) and guitarist Franco, but soon grew to include four more musicians—Reuben's wife Grace, Black Nature, Arahim and Mohamed. They all lived in or around Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, before fleeing in the 1990s. After suffering their own tragedies, they found each other in a refugee camp in the Republic of Guinea.
This self-made family is using music to heal from the horrors they have survived.
Arahim (shown above singing with Grace) is raising his own children with his wife in the camp. His own father and his mother are dead, and the rebels amputated his arm. "What they did to me is a fractional part of my body that they chop off," he says. "So I take it as a destiny. I'll forgive and forget."
With help from the United Nations, the Refugee All Stars travel to other refugee camps to perform and help raise people's spirits. Reuben says performing for other refugees makes a difference. "We are refugees and we know your problems," Reuben says. "But the only contribution we have is to detraumatize the people."
The United Nations also flew the band back to Sierra Leone to record their first album, Living Like a Refugee. It was their first time back since fleeing from Sierra Leone's civil war. "I have hope that this country will one day stand sweetly than before. This is time for us to love ourselves now," Franco says.
In addition to the documentary and touring for their new album, the band will open for Aerosmith. Their song "Ankala" is also featured in Blood Diamond. On The Oprah Winfrey Show, the band performs "Living Like a Refugee." Although the song talks about suffering, Reuben says he encourages people to dance.
"It's hard for us because we have such compassion and empathy for the refugees, so it's hard for us—didn't you feel odd dancing to the music?" Oprah asks the audience. "But you say it's okay to dance to that song."
"Yes," says Reuben.
"It is. Because when you sing it to other people in the refugee camps, they feel what?" Oprah asks.
"Well, they feel good. They feel like healed," Reuben says.
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