Get to know a VSLA. They're popping up all over the place.
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Gates Foundation

I went to a tiny village in Cambodia where the women were really smart with their money.

They handled their money in a way I've never seen before: together.


They don't have traditional banking in their village, so they've created their own way of banking.

You won't find traditional financial services in this area because they don't exist. And until recently, the idea of saving money didn't really exist either. No banking and no saving? It's the ultimate recipe to staying in poverty. But that's starting to change.

It's really neat how they're doing it.

All the things for their "banking" — besides people, of course.

The women meet every week, with one lockbox and three keys.

They sit together in a circle and take turns contributing to the group lockbox. It can be as little as a few cents!

Then they have the option to take money out of the box to pay for things like medical care, education expenses, more pigs for their farm, or even to start a business. They just gotta repay it with interest. ( Sounds like a loan ... because it is!)

A meeting in sped-up action.

It's all part of the village savings and loan association (VSLA) model, and it's helping these women lift themselves out of poverty.

VSLAs are where it's at in the developing world right now. A VSLA group consists of around 15-20 members (usually women) who learn how to save money together and allow each other to borrow funds from the savings. The impact is more than I could ever have imagined, especially when you see it all in action.

All the money is kept in the group lockbox, and it's one member's job to protect the box between meetings. Sounds like a lot of pressure, but don't worry: the box has three locks on it, and three different members are each responsible for a key. It helps build trust within the group and the community.

At the end of each year, the savings plus interest earnings are divided among the members based on the amount each member was able to save.

And then it starts over again. Members can remain in the group or leave, and new members can join. Elections are held to determine certain leadership roles, and a new year of saving starts. Cool idea, right? Here's more on how the VSLA model works.

VSLAs are opening doors that no one knew existed.

There are a lot of rural areas of the world that do not have access to traditional banking. When a VSLA begins operating in a community, it can help people start businesses, improve their health care options, and increase opportunities for their children. Those are all crucial steps to breaking the cycle of poverty.

It helped this woman pay for transportation to the nearest hospital so she could deliver her baby.

Deliver her BABY. Amazing. Imagine if she didn't have that resource.

The best part? Today there are millions of people participating in the VSLA model...

...in rural areas worldwide, with the help of numerous organizations and foreign-aid programs.

This video does a great job of showing the possibilities that VSLAs are opening up for women and families around the world:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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