The next time I post, I promise I will have wonderful photos. We just got to Dhaka and all I can say is that the city is alive.

We have been asked to stay in the hotel for the first day to try to acclimate and rest. As I sit here typing, I hear horns blowing like crazy.

No photos could have prepared me for Dhaka. First of all, the driving is crazy. For instance, there are four lanes marked off but from an aerial view, there would be six or seven lanes. It seems that no one even knows what the dotted lines are. The cars have reinforced bumpers like bumper cars. They all have tons of scrapes and dents and I can see why. It is a free-for-all where the biggest vehicle wins. People jump on the bus as it rolls by and people help others on. It is really something.

I am so excited to be here.

Changing gears. I had a lot of time to think on the two-day journey to get here. The last thought I had was about social business. This is very brief but Dannon Yogurt (Danone) has partnered with Grameen to sell yogurt that is fortified with vitamins at a very low cost to the poor. Once Danone makes back the initial investment and the company becomes self-sustaining, then any profits are reinvested back into Grameen Danone to provide more yogurt to more people who are poor. The company is close to being self-sustaining. (Please read the book Building Social Business if this interests you.)

The product is distributed in two ways. I have a passion for social business and will write an entire blog about it later. I just want to mention that one way it is distributed is through ladies who were poor but are now sales people. So here is a product that is providing the poor with nutrition and women with jobs. There have been bumps in the road but it is a pretty amazing idea.

I think about how this could be applied in the US. In many of the poor neighborhoods, there is not access to a grocery store. People purchase items from convenient stores that are typically over priced and in my opinion, not healthy.

I should note here that yogurt is a good choice for Bangladesh because the people love yogurt.

What if a social business was started in the US where the poor has the opportunity to sell something like ice cream in the summer or hot chocolate in the winter that was priced below other products and was fortified with vitamins? Now, for all of my conservative friends, I need to say here that the great thing about Grameen is that it provides an opportunity to become self-sufficient for the sales people. The money the women make is based on commission and many of them do quite well. It is not a hand out.

Could this kind of idea work in the US? What if there was a stand in poorer neighborhoods where the product was sold?

That’s it for now. Today is Tuesday and I haven’t slept since Saturday night so hopefully this post will make sense when I read it in the morning. What the heck, I will go ahead and post it.

Signing out, from Dhaka.


4 Responses to Dhaka!

  1. Judith Bogart Meredith says:

    This is SO exciting. I’ve been reading about these banks and the whole movement ever since the Nobel Prize Committee brought it to the attention of the world. I’m hanging on your every word, so keep them coming!

    P.S. Who’s program is this and how many of you are there?

    • vlames says:

      It is NKU’s Masters in Public Admin program. There are 12 students, although a few are intl studies students, and one professor, Dr. Shamima Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed is from Bangladesh. The program here is a formal internship at Grameen Bank. It is action packed. We learned today that we will meet Dr. Yunus on Sunday, then leave for five days to a village, then come back to the hotel for one night, then leave for five more days visiting Grameen partners and initiatives.

  2. Anne Combs says:

    Tori, what a fascinating experience and place. Sounds like you might not be going to get your feet wet driving while you are there!!! I think the most amazing thing about going places so unique as this (at least to us homegrown Americans) is the opportunities to see how others live and play and work and dream. Having not been anywhere but North America and Europe, I envy you this opportunity. Have fun, don’t get run over, and I can’t wait to see pics!


    • vlames says:

      Thanks, Anne. I will say the poverty is hard to watch. I saw a child digging through trash for food while riding from the airport. There is trash everywhere and the city smells like trash.

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