How to make a difference

by Heather

Kiva

Making a Kiva micro-loan is a fun way to make a difference in the life of another person you’ll likely never meet.

This is Kanyshbubu from Kurgyzstan, the woman whose loan I funded this week along with 22 other lenders (individuals, couples, and groups) from North America, Europe, and Asia. This is her story:

Kanyshbubu is 44 years old, married, and together with her husband is raising four children. Kanyshbubu has a higher education and works in a local school as a librarian. As a main source of income for her family, Kanyshbubu raises livestock, having begun 26 years ago with a livestock purchase of 15,000 som KGS. Thanks to her hard work, Kanyshbubu today has on her homestead: four dairy cows, one horse, and 35 sheep. Monthly income amounts to 13,000 som (KGS).

With the aim of further developing her homestead, Kanyshbubu applied to Bai Tushum Bank for a loan – to purchase calves to increase her livestock count. Kanyshbubu plans to invest income from the loan in further propagating the number of domestic animals, and plans to save money to purchase a plot of land. –kiva.org

Each translated story (you can also read it in the original language version if you’re fluent) is accompanied by a picture, and I use the pictures to help me make a decision. I’ve never had anyone default on a loan, so I consider my method successful–but defaulting is rare. I loan only to women–my way of helping to even the score–and only to individuals. I don’t loan to people who are scowling–this is not uncommon!–and I consider other elements in the photos as well. For example, in this photo, there’s a happy, well-cared-for animal (as well as a happy person),  both of which are right up my alley. When a retail establishment is involved (and there are many of those on Kiva), I consider aesthetics. I love someone who’s making the world a more beautiful place! I also consider other values, like the quality of the merchandise (will it last?), whether someone is buying organic fertilizer (like manure), engaging in reuse (like making discarded coconut shells into charcoal), and so on.

Those are aspects that appeal to me, but there’s something for everyone. Kiva has lending teams, some of which are based on shared affiliation or belief (alma mater, religious denomination, political party or candidate, etc.), and some lend based on theme, such as loans that are about to expire, green loans, animal-related loans, etc. I’m a member of the Women Empowering Women team.

The way Kiva works is …

  • The website presents loans that have already been made by many different micro-lenders around the world. When you participate, you take over a portion of the loan (the basic increment is $25, and you can assume multiple increments of the same loan if they’re available and you want to), freeing up the original funds so the lender can make another loan sooner than they’d otherwise be able to. This allows them to help more people.
  • Micro-loans do typically carry a higher rate of interest than you may be used to paying as they’re expensive to administer. However, all the evidence points to micro-loans being beneficial to those who receive them, and being an important stepping stone out of poverty.
  • You assume the risk of not getting paid back, which is minimal on Kiva. This risk is associated with both the individual or group being loaned to not repaying the loan, as well as the micro-lender itself failing. Statistics on the associated micro-lender are available on the same page as information about the individual or group. So far, I’ve never had a loan default, though I’ve had a number where payments were late. Right now I have one that’s delinquent, but so far, these situations have always resolved themselves. I did once make a loan where the micro-lender was having difficulty, and I was repaid.
  • If all goes well, and it almost always does, you get your principal back (the interest goes to the original lender), a bit at a time. You can then loan again, or get your money back (via PayPal). You can also give Kiva gift cards to others, so they can experience the fun of making their first Kiva loan.
  • You aren’t required to donate to Kiva, but you have the option of making a donation to help cover operating costs each time you make a loan. Sometimes these donations are matched.

So far I’ve made loans to women in 13 different countries on 3 different continents–Africa, Asia, and South America. (I guess as I think about it, I’m reaching people in more locations than that with my blog–30 different countries on 5 continents as of today–hello, Austria! And thank you, widely-read English language.) I find it another exciting way to impact other women around the world–and I hope you will too!

(You don’t need an invitation to join Kiva, but I’d be happy to send you one if you’d like. Just leave a comment with your e-mail address. If you want your e-mail address kept private, just note that as well and I’ll take care of it.)

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