I know that I am very blessed with my life: I have had the opportunity to go school and to University. I have a loving family and great friends. I have more than enough to eat and awesome place I get to call home. Unfortunately all of these things are not guaranteed for everybody. You only have to turn on the news or open a newspaper and you’ll be confronted with the millions, if not billions of people that are lacking basic facilities or are living in war zones. I realize that by myself I cannot change the world overnight. There are however so many things that you can do to give someone else a better chance at life!
A couple of years ago I first heard of the term micro-finance. Many people in poverty-stricken regions of the world have amazing ideas to sustain themselves and make a living. Unfortunately they often need a starting capital that they don’t have. Most traditional banks will not provide these entrepreneurs with funds because for them the loans are insubstantial and risky, and the profits are low. Consequently the many people that want to make the world better don’t get the chance to do so because they cannot get the necessary funds. Here is where micro-finance can really make a difference.
Kiva was founded in 2005 and is a non-profit organization that provides entrepreneurs worldwide with micro-finance loans. Every dollar that is lend to Kiva will actually get to the people that need it, rather than be used to profit the organization. Kiva is thus a sort of middleman: I lend money to someone (this can be done in increments of $25) that I choose myself. Every person that has requested a loan from one of Kiva’s field partners will be put on the website with their story and their picture. Therefore I’ll always know who I am lending my money to. The moments I lend $25 dollars that money will be transferred to Kiva. Kiva will make sure that my money will get to the person I picked out through one of their field partners. Some people need $700, other might need $3000. Together with other lenders that money will be provided until there is enough for that person to finance his plan.
This all sounds rather abstract so I will illustrate it with a person that I have made a loan to:
As you can see this is Sanoat and I have loaned her money through Kiva in September 2014. Right now Sanoat is paying back the money she had loaned in monthly increments. With the help of her loan she has been able to grow her business and make more money for herself and her family. With the added income and the profit she is likely making she is able to pay back the money to her lenders. In April 2016, Sanoat will have repaid all of her debts and be able to request a new loan if necessary. Just as Sanoat pays Kiva each month, I get a repayment each month. Once I have $25 repaid, I lend money to someone else that needs it. My original $25 has already helped 3 people. Although that might not seem a lot, I feel lucky that I was able to help them at all, even it was only for a tiny bit.
If at any one moment you feel that you want your money back you can withdraw it from the program if you wish to do so (as long as money has been repaid!). Although I don’t think I ever will withdraw my money, it is a safe thought that I will be able to do so when I want to. However, you need to realize that I can happen that people don’t pay back. Just as with every loan there is chance that borrowers default. One outstanding loan I have right now has not yet been repaid, and has been overdue for about 2 months. I don’t really mind as I knew upfront that it was a possible outcome, but do keep it in mind when you decide to invest. Hopefully this does not deter you from helping people that need it in the best way possible: by giving them the chance to make their own lives better. I firmly believe that the best way to get people out of poverty is to get them the tools to make their lives better, rather than give them the “finished product”. Borrowers feel much more confident and happy when they have reached their goals themselves and I think it actively inspires them to work hard! This is not to say that people that receive money are lazy, not at all. I just think that if there if you have a choice, micro-finance is a very good way to give!
In the 10 years that Kiva has been active 1,327,784 people have lend many to Kiva entrepreneurs. Together they have provided $736,206,175 in loans. That is almost a billion dollars! All those lenders have helped people in 83 countries. With just $25 you have the power to change someone’s life. The best thing? You can use your $25 over and over again to help even more people! Hopefully I have inspired you to check out Kiva’s website and get involved.