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Financier to the Poor - My Business My Mission

by Timothy Stoner Financier to the Poor Timothy Jokkene - I am spending three days in northern Uganda with a businessman named Timothy Jokkene (pronounced Jo-keh-neh). In a country where anecdotalestimates place unemployment near 80 percent, Timothy is an amazingsuccess story. He is a rags-to-riches kind of a guy, except that his riches are noton display. I soon learn that he is piling up treasure, but it is not on this earth. Outof love for Jesus, to whom he has given his life, Timothy is sending his treasure onahead, where his heart is.

By enabling business start-ups, creating jobs, providing cattle and plows forthe impoverished, and caring for hundredsof orphans, Timothy is irrefutableproof that even in the most inhospitableeconomic climate there is hope. Timothy has embraced the role of mentor, cheerleader, coach, and financierto the poor. “Experience has shown methat a lot of people can make it, theyjust need someone . . .” —he hunts forthe right words, and then hits it on the head—“to kick-start them.”“

Life Was Not Easy

Timothy grew up in a small village in the province of Gulu in northern Uganda. Iask him to tell me a bit about his family context. He explains that his father was apolygamist who had three wives. In 1979 Timothy was preparing to go to university when Idi Amin’s removal thrust the country into bloody political and social upheaval. Timothy was not able to pursue his education. At the age of 20 he foundwork at a Shell gas station in Gulu, which is near Uganda’s border with Sudan. Herented a room in a garage and worked at the station for the next six years.

When the rebel coalition that regrouped under the Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA) became a growing threat, the new government of President Musevenimade a natural assumption. Given the country’s history of civil strife betweennorth and south, they assumed that the rebels were receiving sympathy and supportfrom the communities in the north—especially from the people of meansand influence.

During this period of suspicion and confusion, the army arrested upwards of5,000 people in towns across the north, from Timothy’s tribe—the Acholis—and the neighboring Langi tribe to the east. Many others were killed, including one ofTimothy’s brothers who was murdered in front of him. In 1988 Timothy was putin maximum security prison—a facility that would make Guantanamo look likea tourist resort.

When he was finally released, he learned that all 1,000 head of his family’s prizedcattle had been stolen by marauders on both sides of the conflict. Timothy had losteverything, including four of his uncles who had been killed. He had no income,no assets, no one to welcome him home. Because of the ongoing tribal conflicts itwas impossible for him to return home, at least not until hostilities ceased.

“Since there was so much suspicion I had to look for a job in this strange capitalcity of Kampala to sustain me and my family,” he says. By this time he was marriedand had three children. He found work as a day laborer, off-loading freighttrucks in the industrial area of the city. This once-wealthy cattleman was reducedto working for poverty wages. The only housing he could find was a small oneroomapartment. During the day it was a kitchen and living room, and at nightit was a bedroom for five people. “Life was not easy,” he tells me, “especially forsomeone used to living in the country.”

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posted by Justin Forman | 8.27.2009 - 5:31 AM


Have you heard of Muhammad Yunus, "Banker to the Poor" ? His latest book is called "Creating a World without Poverty"

I heard him speak for the first time in LA at the NAFSA.org conference (an association of all the international educators of all the major universities in the USA)

It's amazing that 98% of the poor that his banks lend to repay their "unsecured loans", whereas commercial bankers with secured loans have the "rich or richer" defaulting (ie: not being honroable !)
commented by Anonymous Wayne L, 2:19 PM  

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