Last week, I gave $25 to a girl named Krizza Mia in the Philippines to help fund her tuition fees for her first semester at her university. She is studying to earn her B.S in Hotel and Restaurant Management. $25 seems like nothing, doesn't it? Actually, my $25 was part of a $300 loan made through Kiva.org, a micro-lending organization. Also, this was the third time I've invested the same $25 since my senior year in high school! My AP English teacher (thanks, Ms. Schmidt!) introduced me to Kiva and I've been lending ever since. Here's how this works:
Kiva.org is a micro-lending organization that targets low-income individuals who do not have access to traditional banking services. Let's say a woman in Ghana was looking to expand her existing necklace-selling business to reach customers farther away. She wants to purchase a bicycle and transportation supplies, as well as hire someone to deliver the necklaces. So, she applies for a small loan of, say, $500, through Kiva.org. Volunteers from Kiva vet her and make sure that she is in a position to pay back her loan, and they put her story up on their website. Lenders, such as myself, each contribute $25 until her loan request as met. She pays back the loan at a low interest rate so she has time to grow her business and, soon, the extra money she has made by increasing her customer radius has allowed her to pay back the loan. Now her business has expanded and she can make even more money and apply for another loan if she needs it. She now has a successful and functioning business so she can hire workers from her community, send her children to school, and her family can become financially stable and independent. It's a positive cycle that affects her entire community, which is the idea behind Kiva.
The beauty of it is that Kiva has a 98% loan repayment rate which means that you're almost guaranteed to get your money back which you can then lend to someone else! I loaned $25 (the standard amount for everyone) to a woman in Nicaragua to pay for her final semester at pharmaceutical school during my senior year of high school, and once that was repaid, I loaned the same money to a woman in El Salvador to buy more livestock for her livestock-raising business. Krizza Mia makes my third loan and there's something so inspiring about that feeling you get when you do just a little to make a difference that keeps me coming back to make more loans. I don't know how I pick which person to loan to that time around, but I look through their stories and wait for one to "speak" to me. It depends on the day, or on my mood, or something like that, but all of a sudden, someone's story just clicks. This time, it was Krizza and her desire to go to school.
Kiva.org is an incredible organization that focuses on alleviating poverty at the community (micro) level. What I love so much about it is that you can see the specific person you are helping and know that what you do will spread to help others in their community as well.
To set up your own Kiva portfolio, visit their website at www.kiva.org!
Inspired to be,
(Logo courtesy of www.kiva.org)