I made my fifth loan as a micro-financier yesterday and it didn’t cost me a cent. That’s the beauty of Kiva!
I first learned about Kiva last March when I read the eye opening book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows a person to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur across the globe. Though Kiva provides loans to both men and women, I choose to lend to women who are borrowing money to purchase specific items that they will use to generate income that will help them support their families and educate their children.
My first two loans of $25 each went to Rann Sar, a Cambodian villager who wished to purchase two cows to begin a breeding program and Pascuala, a Bolivian who needed a bigger stove to use in preparing the meals that she sells at her food stall. But how can $25 purchase a cow or a stove? It can’t. Many lenders pool their resources to fund each loan.
Shortly after making these first two loans and after receiving my first repayments, I decided to double my investment and loaned $50 to Alina, another Bolivian who wanted to purchase a dairy cow to add to her small herd of four cows. Alina, her husband and their four school age children live with her mother because they can’t afford a house of their own.
But how can I make a loan without it costing me anything at all? Easy! As each of these women makes a monthly payment on her loan, my share of that payment is deposited in my Kiva account and I receive an email notifying me of my updated balance. I could withdraw the money at any time but instead, as soon as my balance reaches $25, I search the Kiva database and choose another woman to lend to. By August, just five months after making my initial loans, I was able to make my first “free” loan and I chose Jacqueline, a 32 year old mother of four in Rwanda who wanted to buy a refrigerator for her small restaurant. After all, can you imagine trying to run a restaurant without a refrigerator? So many of the things that we take for granted are out of reach for many people around the world and by sharing just a bit of what we’ve been blessed with, we can make such a difference!
Yesterday’s borrower especially touched my heart. An adolescent bride, at just 23 years of age she is already the mother of three children and since her meagre income helps with household expenses and school fees, it’s obvious that some of those children are already school age! Two years ago, she started a hairdressing business in her home. Wanting to purchase better hairdressing equipment and to prepare a corner in her home where she can display products to sell to her customers, she applied for a loan. She hopes to earn enough to eventually open her own salon. She lives in Lebanon and for security reasons, her name cannot be published nor her face shown.
As these loans are repaid, I will continue lending the money again and again. For as little as $25, you can do the same. To get started or to learn more, just click on the Kiva banner in the margin.