OK, it’s “Blog Against Poverty Day,” and while I rarely participate in such blogging “days” (mostly out of disorganization), this seems a good time to share my experiences with Kiva.
This month, we are all learning (often to our dismay) just how connected our financial well-being is to decisions made by far-off strangers. We can see now that poor decisions in New York and London can lead to financial pain around the world – and in our local communities.
But fortunately, the opposite is also true – a few good decisions locally can lead to great benefits around the world.
Early this year I heard about an organization called Kiva, which helps to organize loans for small businesses in developing countries – a practice known as “microlending,” part of the growing area of “microfinance.” What interested me about Kiva was its funding source – individuals, recruited through its Web site. I checked it out – and was soon lending money to store owners in Tanzania and farmers in Peru, a few dollars at a time. I recently made my 100th loan on Kiva – many of which have already been repaid in full, and none of which have defaulted to date.
Through a combination of their growing army of individual lenders and their association with local microfinance organizations, Kiva has opened up a new way for entrepreneurs in developing countries to access the capital they need to grow their small businesses. And those connections start here – I’ve seen other lenders on Kiva.org from my own home town of Lafayette, and from other nearby communities.
I really like what Kiva is doing – but more than that, I also really appreciate the fact that many, many organizations throughout the world are not waiting for a government bailout, are not intimidated by the scope of the problems they face, but instead are bringing innovative solutions to every corner of the globe. As a result, while we may be connected to AIG and Lehman Brothers in ways not of our own choosing, we can also choose to connect to a store owner in Tanzania or a farmer in Peru.