We all want to do our part to help others around the world, but it always felt so impersonal to me to give to a large charity. I have now found a more personal way to give to others that you might like as well. It is via the world of microfinance. Wikipedia defines this as “the provision of financial services to low-income clients, including consumers and the self-employed, who traditionally lack access to banking and related services”. As one might expect, people in most other parts of the world cannot go to the bank and easily open an account that has a large minimum or get a $1,000 loan on their own. Yet they may want to start / expand their small business in the areas of farming, food services, or clothing.
A website, called Kiva.org, provides a mechanism to lend as little as $25 to specific low-income business people across the globe. Kiva is a Swahili term which means ‘unity’ or ‘agreement’ and this particular site has been reported on by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC, Time and Fortune. The way it works is that you go to the site and then browse through entrepreneurs from all over the world who are looking for funding for their businesses. You then can choose to fund them with a minimum of $25 and join others who are also pitching in to meet their overall loan amount. As they repay their loan, you get your money back and then can supply it to another individual and so on. It is a personal and powerful way to help others and provide them with a way to make a living.
As of November 2009, Kiva has facilitated over $100 million in loans. There is much more information available on the web site as to how the program works. If you are interested, check it out!