Bob Harris was writing an article on the world’s most luxurious hotels. Appalled at the waste he saw and the gulf between the lives of the richest and the poorest–Bob decided to take the fees he earned and do something good with it. He researched and began loaning funds out through Kiva and other micro-lending organizations. He then traveled the world and met some of the real individuals who are recipients of those funds to hear their stories and find out how those relatively small loans can make a huge difference downstream.
In his book International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time, Harris connects the story to his own background–from roots in Appalachian poverty his own parents moved up for a better opportunity. He describes the long hours his own father put in–and how he sees that and his mother time and again reflected in these hard working individuals around the world.
He also tells the bigger story of micro lending in the book–of Kiva and other organizations–their successes and failures. This is as much a travelogue of the world’s poorest regions. He does it with humor and respect for those he meets (except in a couple cases the individuals are not told that he was their benefactor).
I’ve been a big fan myself of Kiva, and also organizations like D-Rev and Room to Read that are on the ground solving real problems.
In this vein, here are other books I would recommend on globalization and giving back:
Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli
An economics professor chases the economics of a simple t-shirt around the world and it’s effect on the economy–from it’s creation in a factory to a used clothing economy in Africa.
Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood
John Wood left his career at Microsoft to start and fund Room to Read and libraries all over the world.
The World is Flat by Thomas Friedmann
Friedmann explains the economics of globalization.
Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
Diamond explains how history and resources has benefited some groups over others.
The Soul of Money by Lynn Twist
Lessons on how to give back.
Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Ehrenreich joins the working poor working for minimum wage to show the endless cycle of poverty.