Know How To Catch A Dollar?

Many of us think of exotic, far away places like Ghana or Peru when we talk about microfinance. The reality is that microloans can have a positive impact right in our own backyard.

On March 9, the NY team captains attended an advanced screening of a new film To Catch a Dollar, produced by Gayle Ferraro in partnership with Kiva, on Grameen America’s foray into microfinance in the New York City area. Their first branch opened in Jackson Heights, Queens, in late 2007 and loaned exclusively to women borrowers. We followed 2 Grameen borrowers as they took out their first loans and put them to use.

We see the first, Patricia, move her basement cake-decorating business into a full catering business with her own store. Her progress seems, at least on the screen, pretty smooth–hers is a feel good story. The second, Elizabeth, dreams of running her own salon. Her progress toward owning her own salon is slow, choppy, and sometimes painful. Her responsibilities–both financial and, as a single mom, to her children–threaten to overwhelm her at times. Her story shows that the transition from borrower to successful entrepreneur is not always smooth sailing. It requires hard work and determination.

Interspersed with the stories of the borrowers are clips from Bangladesh in the 1980’s, when a younger Muhammad Yunus built the foundation of modern microfinance in Bangladesh through Grameen Bank. The juxtaposition of female borrowers in rural Bangladesh with those in urban America is powerful. Half a world and 3 decades apart, these women share many of the same struggles and desires, and microcredit is helping both groups improve their quality of life.

Following the movie, Robert DeNiro introduced a panel composed of Suze Orman, our own Premal Shah of Kiva, Vidar Jorgensen of Grameen America, and Professor Yunus himself, moderated by Maria Bartiromo. Maria’s great questions and the panelists’ wide range of backgrounds made for a lively and interesting discussion. Suze pointed out the real need for alternate sources of credit in the US, not just for lower income individuals, but also for a struggling middle class squeezed out by the mainstream financial system. Premal emphasized the power of technology and the Internet to advance the cause of microfinance globally.

A takeaway we all got from the discussion was that we must fight the naysayers and the skeptics, both among others and within ourselves, to take action and bring a better existence to people around the world.

How you can catch the film and panel discussion in NYC

On March 31, the Sundance documentary To Catch a Dollar premieres in theaters nationwide. This one night only event will spotlight the promise of microfinance in America through stories of brave women entrepreneurs. Following the film will be a special simulcast panel moderated by CNBC’ s Maria Bartiromo and featuring Nobel Laureate Professor Yunus, Kiva President Premal Shah and special guest, financial powerhouse Suze Orman. This event will kick off a long-term campaign to reframe perceptions of poverty and to extend the reach of financial services in America.

Two screenings with be held in New York City at 7:30pm:

  1. Chelsea Cinemas, 260 W. 23rd St @8th Ave
  2. 86th St Cinema, 210 E. 86th St @3rd Ave

Buy your tickets or pledge to see the film today! You can also follow along at twitter.com/tocatchadollar and facebook.com/tocatchadollar.

We hope you find the film and discussion as inspiring as we did.

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