“To everyone who wants to create a world where not a single person is poor”. Muhammad Yunus
The Irish and The Chocktaws: A Story Spanning 173 Years That Connects our Tribes Across the Ocean is part of Acts of Kindness, Solidarity, Making a Difference and Reciprocity series of stories. Stories where people showed and were shown great kindness, both in difficult times and in good times. Stories of solidarity that connected people through humanity. Stories that showed the best of humanity in difficult times, in times when it was needed most. Stories of individuals and organisations who made a difference. Stories of reciprocity because it was the right thing to do. Stories of acts of kindness, solidarity, making a difference and reciprocity, which were shown simply because people wanted to help – some were in a position to give support themselves, others joined forces to give support as a collective. All of whom did this without wanting or expecting anything in return.
The Irish and The Chocktaws: A Story Spanning 173 Years That Connects our Tribes Across the Ocean A Case Study:
Navajo and Hopi Families Covid-19 Relief Fund, Ethel Branch organiser writes: “My last update was 11 days ago, and I reported then that we had broken the $1 million fundraising mark. Well we have now broken the $2 million mark, in good part due to a beautiful act of solidarity from our friends in Ireland, who remember the kindness shown to them by our Choctaw brothers and sisters, who sent them aid during the great potato famine in 1847. Thank you so much, Ireland!!!
“Several of our recent donations for our GoFundMe campaign have been inspired by the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland which started in 1845.
“During this difficult time, in 1847, the Choctaw Nation provided $170 of relief aid to the Irish to help them (today that is the equivalent of $5,000). Not long before the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland, 60,000 Native Americans, including the Choctaw people, had suffered through the experience of the Trail of Tears. The death of many people on the Trail of Tears sparked empathy for the Irish people in their time of need. Thus, the Choctaw extended $170 of relief aid.
“173 years later to today, the favour is returned through generous donations from the Irish people to the Navajo Nation during our time of crisis. A message from Irish donor, Pat Hayes, sent from Ireland across the ocean: ‘From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship’.
“The heartache is real. We have lost so many of our sacred Navajo elders and youth to COVID-19. It is truly devastating. And a dark time in history for our Nation. In moments like these, we are so grateful for the love and support we have received from all around the world. Acts of kindness from indigenous ancestors passed being reciprocated nearly 200 years later through blood memory and interconnectedness. Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us.”
I was moved to tears when I learnt how the Choctaw Tribe had helped my ancestors in our time of greatest need, how across the ocean they had shown us such great kindness and solidarity, when they had so little themselves. I cried tears of immense pride when I read the comments of my fellow country men and women who 173 years later were remembering and reciprocating this great kindness by giving what they could in an act of appreciation and solidarity.
In trying to make sense of what this could mean in today’s world, a world that has been turned upside down by the pandemic we’re all living through together while apart, I reached for a book I’d read many years ago: Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunnus. Yunnus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneered the concept of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.
The Prologue “Starting with a Handshake” made me smile. Who could ever have envisioned a time when we can’t do that? In time of course the warmth and true meaning of that gesture will return. Yunnus tells the story of how over a lunch meeting with Franck Riboud, the chairman and CEO of Group Danone, he learnt about the origins of the corporation behind the brand. He learnt how Danone is an important source of food in many regions of the world, including developing nations where hunger is a serious problem. Riboud wanted to find ways to help feed the poor. It was part of his company’s historic commitment to being socially innovative and progressive. Within a very short space of time Yunnus found himself suggesting creating a joint venture to manufacture healthful foods that would improve the life of rural Bangladeshis – especially the children. Selling the products at a low price could make a real difference in the lives of millions of people.
Immediately Riboud rose from his chair, extended his hand, and said “Let’s do it.” And they shook hands. Yunnus said he was as elated as he was incredulous. He questioned if this really could be happening so quickly, and wondered what they had agreed to and if perhaps what he said wasn’t understood because of his Bangladeshi accent. When they sat back down, he decided he’d better make sure that Franck knew what he was getting himself – and his company – into.
As he began to explain, Franck nodded and said: “No, I got it! Your plan is quite clear to me. I shook hands with you because you told me that, in Gameen Bank, you rely on mutual trust between the bank and the borrowers, making loans on the basis of a handshake rather than legal papers. So I am following your system. We shook hands, and as far as I am concerned, the deal is final.”
As I continue to ponder what all of this means in today’s upside down world, the initial learning I’m taking from these stories is that the decision to show kindness, solidarity, reciprocity, and to make a difference is instant; and it’s something that each one of us can take ownership for, whether as individuals, in our communities, our tribes, or our organisations. It begins by asking a simple question: What can I/we do to help? Then reflecting through self-feedback on the answer that comes to us, to follow through with the action we can take that will have the greatest impact.
Words of Wisdom
“In Creating a World Without Poverty, Muhammad Yunnus argues convincingly that social business is an achievable way of exploiting capitalism to help the poor.” Poverty News Blog.
“By giving poor people the power to help themselves, Dr. Yunus has offered them something far more valuable than a plate of food – security in its most fundamental form.” Former President Jimmy Carter
This is how Grameen Danone Foods defined its objective:
“Grameen Danone Foods aims to reduce poverty by creating business and employment opportunities for local people, since raw materials, including milk needed for production, will be sourced locally. The companies that make up Grameen Danone Foods Ltd. have agreed not to take out any of the profits out of the company. Instead they will invest these for creation of new opportunities for the welfare and development of people. Hence it is called ‘social business enterprise’.”
Today’s book of the blog is: Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism By Muhammad Yunus
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