The loan was tiny Just $19 to buy a bus ticket. But for Mariful Islam, the difference it made was immense.
Islam is 24. He has lived in the same rural village in Bangladesh his whole life. He doesn't own his own land. So he scrapes out a living working on other people's farms.
"Mostly I plant and I harvest rice in the paddies," he says.
But every September marks the start of a two-to-three-month period when the rice is just growing. "There's no work for me to do," says Islam. Which means he and his wife and their toddler son have to get by on the family's meager savings.
"We have a lot problems getting enough food," says Islam. Instead of three meals a day, they cut back to two — skipping lunch. And they mostly eat rice. There is practically no meat or fish. Not even for his son.
At times, Islam had considered heading to the capital city of Dhaka, about a seven-hour bus ride away. Maybe he could find a job there to tide the family over.
But he always concluded it was too risky. He didn't have the money for the bus ticket. So he would need to borrow it from a local moneylender, who would charge an exorbitant interest rate of about 10 percent to 15 percent a month. And Islam couldn't be sure he would even get a job. After all, he had never been to the capital. Not once. What if it didn't work out? The family would be ruined.