March 13, 2013

The International Bank of Bob by Bob Harris

**This review is part of the Amazon Vine program**

What a fantastic book! If there's anything restores my hope for humanity, this would be it. Not only had I never heard of the Kiva program before this book, but it was just filled with wonderful details of Bob's travels as well that I enjoyed.

Before I start, I want to explain the Kiva program briefly. Kiva is a micro-finance/loan program. Well, it works with those programs actually. It's an online site where you can browse the profiles of people requesting a micro-loan to help expand or finance their business. People lend as little as $25 towards the loan, and then are repayed as the borrowers repay their loans through micro-finance companies in their country. The repayal rate is currently about 98.98% which is amazing. The idea of Kiva is based off of the Grameen Bank that won the Nobel Peace Prize (I had heard of this program, read several wonderful articles on it).

Bob is a travel writer and after getting the opportunity to go review some luxurious resorts around the world, he happily takes off. But once at these locations he is appalled at the conditions the people working in them live and the disparity between incomes. And then he discovers Kiva at a conference and winds up putting around twenty thousand dollars into the program. But that's not enough, he wants to make sure his money is making a difference. So he organizes a trip to write this book and meet some of the people around the world that he's loaned money to. He also visits the Micro Finance Institutions and meets the people running them, and even visits borrowers who he hadn't had any impact on. Just to round everything out.

The people are so wonderful in this book. Even faced with horrible situations they somehow rise above it and continue to try to better themselves. It makes me feel like a tiny person when I think about the things I complain about. One thing I did notice is that nearly every client didn't have their real name in the book. Which is fine. It was just comical to see explanation after explanation of why the real name wasn't going to be used. I would have just put a note at the beginning of the book saying all names are protected and been done with it. Bob himself is a quite lovable person. I know he's writing about himself in this, but he does so in such a modest way that you can't help but appreciate him. And the fact that he loves good causes doesn't hurt either.

I appreciated the idea of this book. I'm always looking for interesting topics about the world and what could be better than helping someone? And in addition to learning so many things (this book was extremely well researched) Bob approached it in an easy-to-understand way and made it comical too. He can be amidst extreme poverty but still find the silver lining, although he does have a few blue moments. And I like that when using numbers, he compares it to something in the USA so you have a picture in your head of what he's talking about. I actually can't really find anything to complain about in this book. I'm sure there were some things that could have been done better, but I enjoyed the book so much that I must have ignored them. Even the sources section was thorough and extremely informative.

And thanks to Bob, I made my first Kiva loan. And I can't wait to make another one. Oh, and I just thought of my only complaint. I joined Kiva while about halfway through the book, and it wasn't until the end I saw the link I could have used to say that Bob inspired me to join, but by then it was already too late. Front cover, hint hint, would be helpful. But like I said, nothing about the book contents itself made me want to complain, a wonderful look at the world of micro-finance.

The International Bank of Bob
Copyright 2013
391 pages

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