About a month or so ago, Sweetie and I were discussing what to get the other for Christmas this year. We really couldn't think of anything all that important, and we really didn't feel the need to add to the ever-growing pile of crap/junk that tends to pile up when one has a couple of young kids in the house.
So instead of giving each other gifts this year, we're pooling the money we would have spent and we're going to lend it at www.kiva.org.
Kiva's tagline on their website is "Loans that change lives." They act as the middleman between organizations in third-world countries who want to make micro-loans to people in extreme poverty, and individuals like you and me who want to fund those loans. It's really a pretty cool concept, and it's very well run.
Take this example--Mrs. Yi Thy is a married 35-year-old woman that grows rice and raises pigs to earn a living. Her husband is Ngeng Vanna, age 38, who works on the farm along with his wife. They are the parents of two children and live in the Kompong Cham Province. Yi's goal is to provide her children with a higher education. She has applied for a loan to purchase more piglets, feed, and a cow for her family's business activities. Mrs. Thy Has applied for a $150 loan to be repaid over the course of 10 months through Hattha Kaksekar Limited (HKL), a partner of Save the Children. There's already 3 people...one from the United States, one from Japan, and one from Australia, who have given a total of $75. So when $75 more is given, the loan will be funded.
Let's say Sweetie and I provide the other $75 through Kiva. Mrs. Thy will get the loan through Hattha Kaksekar, and as she repays them, the $150 principal eventually comes back to Kiva, and our $75 share comes back to the Kiva account Sweetie and I set up. We then will be free to loan it to someone else on Kiva's site.
They have hundreds of people from all over the world who have applied for loans from anywhere between $100 and $2000 dollars. Many of these people are women, all are small entrepeneurs trying to provide for their families, and these microloans are for them very real ways to break the cycle of extreme poverty. Reading through the lists of individual situations and business plans from so many parts of the world--it's eye opening.
As these are loans to real people, there's always the chance of default. But Kiva's default rate is only about 3%, which is very impressive when one considers some of the places these loans are made.
It's giving a hand-up to hard working people who want to provide for themselves and their families. And personally, I think it's a really cool way to serve our neighbor, affirm their dignity, and give a gift that literally keeps on giving.
Check them out. www.kiva.org. Good stuff there.