About once a week, I receive a new letter from a charitable organization asking for a donation. This adds countless amounts of stickers and notepads to my already large pile of stationary items. As a young woman looking to save up for a graduate degree, I personally cannot afford to sign up for monthly donations at this point in my life. Many charities rely on these regular donations in order to operate and fulfill their mission; however, imagine if a single donation of $25 or more could change the entire course of a person’s life, alleviating them and their family from poverty and providing crucial opportunities for employment. That simple donation offers a world of promise – and get this, you can get all of your money back!
This is the principle of Kiva, a non-profit organization committed to transferring and assisting in microcredit loans for people in developing countries. Millions of people lack safe and reliable access to financial institutions, fueling a constant cycle of hunger, poverty and lost opportunities. They are simply missing the start-up capital needed to boost and maintain their business – and that is where microcredit loans come in. They are essentially very small loans offered to people in developing countries that wish to become sustainably self-employed. The unique part of this charitable process is that the donation is gradually given back as the business begins to earn more money, providing a return on the initial investment. Even better, the money can be “recycled” and applied towards another loan to help yet another person. In theory, this single $25 can recirculate and improve countless lives over the course of several years.
Kiva has become a leading non-profit organization in providing and organizing safe loan transfers within a large global community. Founded in 2005, Kiva has administered over $324 million dollars in loan transfers, with a solid 98.97% repayment rate. They believe everyone deserves the power to create opportunity and operate on a lending basis to help alleviate poverty. A lender can search on their easy-to-navigate website (kiva.org) and scan through dozens of profiles from people across the world who are in search of a loan. Once a person is selected, a donation of $25 or more can be applied to their account, linked with numerous other donors from across the globe. Kiva works with microcredit organizations to help set up a plan for the person to slowly pay back their loan. A lender can log on to the Kiva website and receive regular updates on their donation, along with the “Kiva credits” that are slowly reimbursed into their account. A lender can choose to cash out their donation after it has been successfully paid back, or they can choose to donate it again to another profile.
The success of this organization lies in the safety and security of the whole process, allowing the business owner to safely conduct their business while maintaining a sense of control and dignity. By loaning a small amount of money, an entire family in Paraguay or Kenya can dramatically improve their living situations. By providing stable economic opportunities, a plethora of other social ills can be improved, such as hunger, school attendance and overall health. The benefits are endless.
There are many other ways to help the organization, from becoming a lender, spreading awareness or volunteering for the Kiva Fellows program. The Kiva Fellows is an unpaid volunteer position that is crucial for smooth operation of the program. They are essentially the eyes and ears for the organization, acting as a liaison between Kiva and the smaller microcredit institutions in that area. If you are interested in helping out for a great cause, log on to their website and see which opportunities are currently available.
Charitable giving is becoming an important way to help lessen the gap between the world’s rich and poor. By making a small donation, the course of an entire family can be dramatically improved, aiding a small business to purchase new goods or machinery. The money lent to them is returned as they slowly pay back the initial loan, benefiting both parties. It gives a sense of dignity to the person using the loan, as they are able to pull themselves out of poverty and give back to those who lent to them.
If you are reading this, you are likely to be one of the world’s richest people, with access to either a computer, smartphone or other electronic device. If you have a spare $25 in your pocket, dig deep to help others who are in need. You will get your money back if you would like, but it is more than likely you will want to recirculate it again. The solution is empowerment and providing opportunity – if we all donated $25, imagine what the world could be. We are living in an increasingly global community and we need to help out our neighbours. Share your wealth, improve lives and feel the wave of change.
(All pictures courtesy of kiva.org)