Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kiva

When I was in college, I was an Asian Studies major, which meant taking several fascinating classes on development of third world countries. In one of those classes, I learned about Grameen bank, a micro-lending bank in Bangladesh. Back in the 70s, the founder loaned a very small amount of money ($27 each) to a couple dozen poverty-stricken families. The money was primarily loaned to women because, it was reasoned, women have the most stake in improving the lot of the entire family. Most of these families were able to use the money to dramatically and permanently improve their standard of living. Almost all the loans were repaid on time and now, three decades later, Grameen Bank is huge, still lending to the poorest citizens of Bangladesh. I had seen extreme poverty before (as an outsider in Mexico) but still was amazed that such a tiny (to my way of thinking) amount of money could have such a huge impact.


Fast forward twenty years. About once every four months, I catch an episode of Oprah. I love the show, but it's not on at a convenient time for me and I don't love it enough to commit to watching it in its recorded incarnation. About a year and a half ago, I happened to tune in and learned about Kiva. Kiva is a non-profit organization that matches micro-lenders (you and me) with people in mainly third-world countries who need micro-loans (in most cases, a few hundred dollars). I can go to Kiva's website and lend money in $25 increments to people who have applied for loans for various purposes. (The entire $25 goes to the loan with no fees taken out) My $25 joins the $25 loans from other people until the entire requested loan amount is funded. So far I've made nine loans, four of which have been paid back and five of which are in the process of being repaid. As one of my loans is repaid, I just lend it back out to someone else. I love that I can be personally involved in making the earth a better place for some of its least fortunate inhabitants. Rarely is a loan not repaid and, if one of mine ever isn't, I will know that that $25 is probably needed a heck of a lot more by the person who has it now than it is by me.

A Kiva volunteer made the following video if you'd like more information:

http://www.vimeo.com/2769845 This video lasts about 10 minutes and follows the money as it's loaned by a group of people in London, travels to the Kiva offices in San Francisco, and then goes on to the intended recipient.

Or, you can visit their website http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=home.

1 comment:

Donna said...

What an awesome idea. I have heard of this before but had forgotten the name of it. What a wonderful way to make a difference!