SMU undergrad’s microfinance miracle

Rahfin Faruk took micro-loan lessons learned in Bangladesh and applied them to West Dallas.

As an SMU undergraduate, Rahfin Faruk learned how the lessons of impoverished villages in Bangladesh could bring change to an underserved community in Dallas.

The summer before his sophomore year at SMU, Faruk worked for a bank in his native Bangladesh, conducting surveys in the field with agricultural cooperatives and developing criteria for micro-loans. Challenged at first by the lack of sanitation resources in the villages he visited, he realized after a few days that “I had been given an opportunity to grow.”

When he returned to Dallas, he used what he had learned to found Green Riba, a micro-lending organization that provides low- or zero-interest loans to budding entrepreneurs in West Dallas using proceeds from a store front selling T-shirts and other products.

“Microfinance has changed the world,” Faruk says. “Whether it is the lives of millions of women in rural Bangladesh or an artist in West Dallas, small loans can have huge impacts.”

Faruk has drawn from his multiple academic majors to give him broad-based perspectives. A recipient of SMU’s highest merit scholarship, he majored in economics, political science, public policy and religious studies, with a minor in mathematics. He started Green Riba with a grant from SMU’s Big iDeas program, which supports student research and initiatives with a community impact. For his academic achievements and commitment to public service, Faruk was named a national Truman Scholar and was a Rhodes and Marshall Scholarship finalist. He was one of only eight students nationally to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative America. At SMU he also was the voting student representative to the SMU Board of Trustees. Currently a Truman-Albright Scholar at the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., he has been appointed an adviser to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Faruk advises students to “think about the need for what we learn here to matter out there.”