Just want to share a site I’ve found: www.kiva.org
. I found out about it from Bill Clinton’s book Giving (which happens to be a bookring).
It’s a non profit group that offers microloan to people in developing countries. Each request has a picture and a story about why they need the loan. You may have a farmer in Peru wanting money to get more seeds, a woman in Pakistan wanting to start a grocery store, or a driver in Azerbaijan needing a new car. Each loan unit is $25. They usually will pay back the money in 6 months to a year, after which you can used that same $25 to loan to another person.
I’ve never been to a donation site that can be so much fun and so addictive. I mean, if I stay on there I could donate my life saving away! I like the intimacy that you see the faces of people that need help, read about their lives and how they changed with the loan in the journals. It’s kind of fun to scroll through the pages and find the one whom you feel kinship with. (Imagine lending money to someone in the same business as you are halfway around the world!)
I also love how the pictures also give me a glimpse of lives in other countries. I get to see how a grocery stand, a hardware store, or a beauty salon looks like. I wonder if the little music store (really two metal grids with CDs and DVDs hanging from there) are selling bootleg copies?? So, yeah, you can loan money to support illegal activities. Or tell people you have stake in a drinking bar in Sudan. There are loan request for internet cafes and cellphone stores too, if you like to go hi-tech. I am a bit ambiviant about all the grocery stores and their Cokes and Pepsis. But then who am I to deny anybody a cold bubbly drink on a hot day? Or a motorcycle instead of a bicycle? The world is flat. However, with the variety of budding enterprises, you are likely to find something that you can support in accordance with your value systems and beliefs.
What I like also is the fact that your money can be re-invested when the loan is repayed, so your $25 can be “recycled” and go on doing good. To me it sounds better than a donation! Kiva warns that there is a blue-moon chance a loan can go default, but the way I look at it, I’ve donated plenty of $25 to non profit organizations and I don’t expect to see the money back anyway.
Check it out, it’s totally cool. I’ve made a commitment to make a new loan every two months or so from now on.