It has been a busy couple of months, but I’ve been working too hard to have anything decent to write in this space. I tend to lie pretty dormant in the winter, which in Memphis can be mercifully short (usually only 2 months long, or so).
I have been experimenting with a few things worth mentioning, though. One of those is kiva.org, which is a site that allows you to loan money directly to people around the world that need it. The idea is called microcredit, and while it has been around for a long time, what is relatively new is that it is now possible for individuals to easily (via the web) to pool their efforts and loan money directly to other individuals and groups.
Kiva.org has been around a few years now, and while it has gotten a fair amount of press (including a mention in President Bill Clinton’s book Giving), most folks are still unaware that such a thing exists. How does it work? Well, the kiva.org site is full of requests from people all around the world that need a relatively small amount of money loaned to them so that they can expand their business or accomplish a similar short-term goal that will result in them being able to pay back the loan and, hopefully, make their life better and improve their community in the process. After creating an account on kiva.org, you can select the projects you wish to fund through a loan.
In most cases, depending on how much you want to loan, you may be loaning money to an individual or group on the other side of the world in partnership with several other people doing the same thing. For example, the total amount of a loan provided for a person in Ukraine may be $1100, but you may only be putting up $50. You decide how much you want to put up for the loan. A PayPal account is required to provide a loan, as that is how the money is provided for the loan overseas, as well for how it is paid back.
It is important to note that you are not paid any interest for your loan but that interest (about 21%) is charged to the person or group that takes out the loan. All of the interest goes to pay for the Kiva Field Partners, which are the folks on the ground the various countries around the world, investigating the validity of the loan request and facilitating the dispursel and collection of loan money. As the Field Partners have a great motivation to ensure that money is only loaned to people who can pay it back, as it is the only way that the Field Partner makes any money, the repayment rate on the loans is near 100%, meaning that they money that you are loaning is pretty safe. (Like any loan, however, there is a risk that you could lose the entire amount you are loaning. Only loan an amount you can stand losing, if the worst happens.)
Kiva.org isn’t without its critics, but I found the entire process of loaning $50 to a group of Ugandan women, called the Namugongo Group, very straightforward. Through the kiva.org site, the Field Partner will keep me up-to-date with how the loan money is used and let me know when repayments are made, which could take up to a year. By doing this, I am able to personally help make a change in the lives of others half-way around the world, people I’m never likely to meet. I’m also probably not out any money, as it would likely just have set in my PayPal account making a tiny bit of interest. The money will eventually come back to me. And, if I’m lucky, maybe a little karma, too.
I have a lender page set up, where you can find out more about the individuals and groups I choose to fund:
If anyone reading this is interested in an invitation to join kiva.org, drop me an email through the Contact page. (An invitation is not required to join Kiva, but I will get credit for an invited person actually joining Kiva.)