It's international week here at Just Giving It. When I first wrote down the handful of organizations that I might consider giving to, back on December 29 last year as this blog was just taking shape in my mind, Kiva was high on the list.
Here's how it works:
Kiva partners with existing microfinance institutions around the world, who know their local context. Those field partners distribute loans to local entrepreneurs and upload stories to the Kiva website. Lenders (you and I) browse those profiles and select the ones we'd like to fund, for as little as $25. Kiva combines those funds and disburses them to the field partners. The entrepreneurs then repay their loans, and Kiva repays the lenders. Lenders can then re-invest those funds, donate them to pay Kiva's operating expenses, or withdraw them using PayPal.
When I first visited Kiva earlier this year, it had recently been identified as one of Oprah's 'Favourite Things' and the resulting popularity meant that there were temporarily no loans available to be made! That's changed, and as of this morning there are 713 loans available.
My mom and I made a loan together recently, to support Elsa Balaba in the Philippines who needed bananas and sugar for her street food stall. It's such fun reading through the profiles! Great too to see that our loan was pooled with others' to provide Elsa with her full requested amount. We now receive periodic updates as she pays it back.
Small business owners need start up and operating capital, no matter where they live. Microfinance is a pathway to development gains that has proven to be very effective. Kudos to Kiva for making it easier for those of us in wealthy nations to connect, simply and meaningfully, with entrepreneurs in poorer places who need our capital. We need their stories. A beautiful win-win.