Monday, August 11

small change changes lives

i recieved an update email this morning from Mwanahamisi Rashid, Pili Kago and Grace Emanuel. I loaned some money to this group of 3 Tanzanian women through the Kiva microloan organisation and who have now raised and invested enough capital to begin repaying the loan. This is what i like about Kiva, the real contact you can have with people you have never met but have helped in some small way and the fact that you can choose exactly to whom (and what kind of business) you wish to lend money. By providing what to us in rich country is the equivalent of a meal out, to the recipient of the microloan it can be the difference between subsisting and living, It can make a world of difference to their lives and their families and communities.

Its hard to write this without sounding preachy or paternalistic but i will do my best. So far with Kiva i have supported women with young families in Africa but i think my next few loans will be in Afghanistan. I think its so important to support women, as women are the key to lifting families and communities out of poverty. An educated and independent mother will pass on life skills to her children which sustain and advance community.

Here's how Kiva works.

When you visit the Kiva website you will find listings of all registered entrepreneurs and their complete business details and photographs and how much capital is needing to be raised. All listed entrepreneurs have been screened by local non profit organisations specialising in development funding. You create a Kiva account into which you deposit funds via Paypal (who provide this service to Kiva for free) for you to distribute to your selected recipients. When you find a business and a business person whom you think you would like to support you can choose to fund the entire amount of capital needed for that project or you can contribute a minimum of a $25 loan to that person or group, a microloan can be a composite of many lenders. When the group or individual has raised the capital required, the business expands or begins and when enough profit is made repayments are divided amongst all the lenders who helped to fund that business, depending upon the percentage each lender contributed and this continues until the loan is repayed in full. You can then cash in this repayment or elect for this repayment to be credited to your Kiva account for you to make another loan. All through the process you recieve email updates on the venture and its owners.

What i really like about Kiva is the grassroots nature of it. Its individuals helping individuals directly and its not for profit, so all your money goes to those who you are loaning to. And, unlike bank loans, no interest is claimed. You can elect to make a voluntary contribution to Kiva to support their fieldworkers administrate the service and can choose the form of that donation; USB, torches, pens etc. I also like that you can choose directly whom you wish to support so that you can make choices about sustainable and ethical businesses. I wish this operated everywhere.

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