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Grameen Bank began with a simple but revolutionary concept: Loan poor people money on terms that are suitable to them and encourage them to use savings and sound financial principles so they can achieve financial self-sufficiency. It was created in 1976 when Professor Muhammad Yunus, then head of the Rural Economics Program at the University of Chittagong, loaned $27 from his own pocket to 42 people. The borrowers repaid his small loans promptly and inspired Yunus to establish the Grameen Bank Project, which was transformed into an independent bank by in 1983. The bank is founded on a belief that credit is a basic human right and that borrowers are not simply borrowing from a bank, but are committed to a philosophy built upon four core principles: discipline, unity, courage, and hard work.
As of June 2010, Grameen Bank has disbursed more than $9.4 billion to over 8.1 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women. There are now 141 Grameen replication projects in 38 countries. The Grameen concept has created an effective and sustainable response to world poverty and the Bank's success has advanced the concept of microcredit around the globe.
In 2006, Professor Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below." In 2009, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama.
"New York City is the world capital of banking. In these skyscrapers, they control world finance. What I pointed out is that they do the banking with the world but they don't do the banking with their neighbors. We are here to show that there is nothing wrong with doing banking with neighbors. So we hope we will create some confidence in them. If we change the banks' mind, the whole world will change."
- Muhammad Yunus, May 17, 2010, Grand Opening of Grameen America's Manhattan branch
Grameen America opened its doors in New York City in January 2008. The nonprofit organization was founded upon the belief that the system with remarkable results in the villages of Bangladesh could work in America to serve the 40 million people who live below the poverty line and have no access to banks and mainstream financial institutions.
Grameen America has experienced considerable growth in less than 3 years, lending over $12MM in micro-loans to over 5000 borrowers across 3 branches in New York City and one in Omaha, Nebraska. We want to focus our growth in the New York area and a select number of other cities as we receive the funding needed for a fully sustainable Grameen America operation.