Kiva! Kiva. Kiva. Kiva.
I first found out about this organization way back when I was an undergrad, and Nicolas Kristof highlighted it in a column. This was back in those halcyon days when nytimes.com was free, and I was one broke undergrad who read a lot of NY Times columns. This may be the only one, however, that sprung me to action!
Kiva is a microfinance site. I had heard some about microfinance (that’s lending in very small amounts to poorer people than would usually have access to loans), but was thrilled to learn that there was a way to be involved in it.
To make a loan on Kiva, you choose someone to lend to and put $25 in your Kiva account. And that’s it. The entire $25 gets combined with other people’s donations, and is loaned to the person that you picked. Then they pay it back and you can retrieve it, or lend it to someone else. So $25 can go around and around the world, helping people get a leg up and get out of some serious poverty. I love it.
(There was a scandal a while back about the money not going to the borrower chosen by the lender, but the organization has been pretty upfront about addressing that. Essentially, loans are lent out before borrowers are posted , so “your $25” is not technically going to the person you click on, since they already have the money. This does not bother me.)
Kiva will ask you for a donation to cover the operational costs of the program, but it’s optional. If you want, you can just lend your $25 and trust in others to keep the wheels moving. I usually chip in an extra two or three bucks because I think the model is so fabulous, and want to see it continue. Almost everyone does this, so they’re able to keep the doors open.
That first loan I made during my senior year of college was to a Ghanaian woman selling tomatoes. I did not have a lot of disposable income, but I figured I could use some of my beer money to help her get more tomatoes. I made my 21st loan today, to a Columbian woman with a beauty salon. Though there was a brief interlude there when I had a job, somehow I’m still a student with little disposable income, but this is one of the best uses of it I can think of. In between, I got some Kiva credit as wedding and birthday presents, and the more I put in, the more I’m able to re-lend. I keep lending because it makes me feel more connected to the world, and just maybe helps ease global poverty just a little bit, by adding my little bit to everyone else’s.
As Sesame Street once sang: Co-operation makes it happen. Co-operation, working together, dig it!