Behold! How Great a Forest a Little Fire Can Burn!

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Brigham Young University has an infamous cable channel, byuTV.  During my high school years, my mother (a BYU alumna) would frequent the channel, watching the choirs, campus news, devotionals, and reruns of “Little House on the Prairie.”  I would normally leave the room unless I wanted to be put to sleep by the usually boring programming.  One fateful day, I was caught unaware as my mother grabbed the remote and changed the channel to BYU’s channel.  Caught off-guard, I lingered, wondering if I could use the inevitable and impending nap.  However, this program was different.  It sparked a small fire in my heart that has grown to consume and transform my thoughts and passions. Let me tell you more about this program, how it changed my thinking, and where I am today.

Here’s what kept me awake during “Small Fortunes: Microcredit and the Future of Poverty.”  The documentary profiled several impoverished people from around the world whose lives were changed when they accepted loans of less than $100.  Here are two I distictly remember:

An African woman lived in a hut with her children.  Her husband had an income, but would either squander his money drinking or wasn’t around to help.  This woman struggled everyday to feed them and herself.  She did not have the means or education to employ herself or find employment.  A microlender gave her the means in the form of a $60 loan, to be paid back with interest.  The condition of her loan was that she spent it toward an income-generating activity; she bought a cow and started selling the milk.  Soon enough, she had paid off the loan and received another one, this time to buy chickens.  I sat aghast.  I’m a teenager with a couple grand stashed away for college,” I thought. “Sixty bucks did that for someone out there?” Selling the milk and eggs provided a new stability and security that her family had never had, something I took for granted.

An Indian woman, abused and begging on the streets, took out a loan for $85 from a microlender.  She bought trinkets and toys with her loan, and offered them to children if they would go home and return with their mothers’ hair, gathered from brushes and combs.  “What could she possibly do with hair?! What twisted waste of a loan is this?” I wondered.  The program revealed the purpose of the careful plot: the woman sold the hair to a pharmaceutical company, which then extracted oil from the hair for its products.  “Amazing!” Soon she was employing women from other neighborhoods to hand out trinkets and gather hair.  I later learned that she not only became self-sufficient, she became wealthy, employing over 70 other women!

My father was an entrepreneur and a charitable man; I had always thought I’d follow that path, creating my own success, then giving back to the world in some way.  Never before had I realized that there were sustainable, business savvy solutions that could bring about good in such a way to the impoverished.  I realized that I wanted to become a “social entrepreneur” that day, though I was yet unaware of that term.

In the years since, I’ve learned a lot about the innovative activities of social entrepreneurs and how to get involved.  I desire to continue on a path of learning by taking classes, reading, and doing whatever I can.  I invite you to find some purpose, or rededicate yourself to one once had, and contribute in greater ways to the good causes for the people of the Earth.

—  Hank Taylor