Conquer The Grinch!(A)
Believing in an optimistic future is difficult for some as 2004 winds to an end and the results of the recent U.S. election begin to manifest. The Grinch is in grave danger of making off with all that’s good about this time of year. In keeping with the mood, I began to write the December “Dear Reader” about credit card issuers, and how they exploit the holidays and abuse their customers.
Our holiday message this year is one word: “Believe”, and that message stared at me from the cards on my desk as I added paragraphs of pessimism about consumer loans piling up. I decided to find something hopeful to write about. Once I tried, it wasn’t hard and it proved to be a great tonic. I have found that the fastest (if clichéd) way for me to pull myself out of despair is through counting my blessings and finding stories of success.
One of the most satisfying and successful investments that we facilitate on behalf of our clients are called “community investments”. In over twenty years of making loans and placing deposits targeted directly toward housing, job creation and other projects, our clients have a remarkable history of success and safety with these asset classes. The stories behind the investments are poignant and heartrending, but because they are true, they restore belief in human kindness and possibilities. Here are just two of them:
Shared Interest, South Africa:
10,000 rural borrowers—75 percent of who are women—are joining the bee-keeping business. Each new beekeeper will receive fifty hives stocked with African bees. Each new beekeeper will receive training and equipment for harvest honey. And each new beekeeper will receive an above market price for their honey from the Bee Foundation.
The Bee Foundation is a private business in a northern province of South Africa that is producing honey on a small scale. With the help of a Shared Interest guarantee, the Bee Foundation has designed a program to establish a vast network of emerging beekeepers that will do three things:
(1) provide jobs to 10,000 rural borrowers over five years(2) expand the Bee Foundation’s production of organic honey(3) improve the survival rates and productivity of the African bee
With the voluntary participation of the University of Pretoria, the project will also help to advance the protection of African bees. The bees will received a medicine required to protect them from a threatening mite through the water supply in their specially adapted hive. And the University will expand and share its research on other medicinal and cosmetic by-products made from honey.
Not only is the University involved, but one of South Africa’s largest mining conglomerates is also voluntarily participating in the project by allowing some of the new beekeepers to hang their hives on private land—where some of the best flowers are available for the bees honey production.
Institute for Community Economics , Albuquerque, New Mexico
Beginning in the 1980s, residents of Albuquerque’s Sawmill neighborhood created a community organization to fight pollution from a nearby particle-board factory. At the same time, on the other side of the neighborhood, historic Old Town was becoming a leading tourist attraction, with galleries, trendy shops, restaurants and museums. The resulting gentrification, pushed home prices upward, and the Sawmill residents started to worry about their families’ futures in a neighborhood where some had lived for generations. To expand affordable housing opportunities in this situation, the community organization negotiated with the City to gain the right to develop 27 acres of vacant land once occupied by the old sawmill operation. The existing organization then created the Sawmill CLT (Community Land Trust) to develop and hold the land.
On this site the CLT is now developing 99 housing units, including single-family homes, townhouses and senior apartments, together with a plaza, park, community center, and projected commercial space. To make sure that this development continues to serve lower income residents of the community, the land will be held permanently in trust by the CLT.
These are but two of hundreds of stories that could be told. Believe – and we will conquer the Grinch!
You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch, You have termites in your smile, You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch, Given a choice between the two of you I’d take the seasick crocodile!