I found this microfinance site on my travels around gardening blogs and thought at the time (months ago now) that it was a wonderful idea. The basic premise of Kiva is that you log on to a website where people from all over the world explain how they need relatively small amounts of money to run a small business. You read their fairly short blurbs, look at their pictures and then choose to lend them what you can. When their business (selling shoes, making samosas, growing vegetables for market) is up and running they begin paying back the loan. When your relatively small amount of money (say $25) comes back into your Kiva account you can choose to withdraw the money or lend it to some new person starting up a fishing/coconut growing/poultry business. Many of the business people are women and they do come from all over the world (at least parts of the world where microfinance makes sense).
You can read more about it here. The background, the due diligence, the businesses, the lenders, the microfinance companies, the stories and the statistics are all covered in that link. I found the whole idea really immediate and personal and well documented. We were also very impressed with the low default rate, though I'm not really sure how much that would matter - maybe a bit. It does help to feel like what you are doing is a positive improvement in someone else's life. But we're also sign ups for Oxfam donations and other international charities and we never really known where that money goes, and we know that some of that money goes to advertising and office space and other admin costs. Whereas these Kiva folks are a non-profit and they survive by donations and volunteers. At least for now they do. Maybe they'll get big and change their ways but for now they are still "a start up".
We decided to sign up as a family and to each take it in turns to select someone. We then chose two women and two men. Since we joined up on the 28th June - these folks have all managed to raise the loans they need. We will now be able to track their progress through journal entries posted on their pages. Others who have done this have had their money repaid fairly quickly, though we are not really concerned about that issue either.
When you lend money, you can decide whether you'd like to create a lender profile or be anonymous. We chose to have a profile and I added these words when asked "I loan because": As a family it helps us feel connected to the rest of the world. For us it is good to remember that where we are in the world is just a result of accidents of birth. When the refugee boats were being turned away off the coast of Australia a few years ago, I couldn't help thinking that we (with all our unique and special qualities) could have been sitting huddled on those boats if we had just been born somewhere else in the world (and if a few bad things had happened to us!). I want my children to realise that everyone is special and everyone deserves "a go" as we'd say in Australia. Have a go.
Puy Chum (Cambodia) Fishing
Assou Kpetigo (Togo) selling automobile spare parts
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