Posts Tagged ‘micro-loan’

Happy Birthday Kiva

Essi Félicité Adzamua in Togo, Photo: Abby Gray/Kiva

My investment in Kiva, as a loaner to a small business, is one of my favorite things. A simple donation of as little as $25 can radically change a life in poverty regions around the world. Kiva makes micro-loans to entrepreneurs for whom loans that would seem quite small and insignificant to us can stock a small shop with vital goods for a community, buy a sewing machine to launch a clothing business, purchase drugs for a medical clinic, or more. Borrowers pay back the micro-loans with regular installment payments, and then you can roll over your small investment to another borrower who is changing their world. Peruse the online profiles and loan requests to find a project that inspires and moves you. You can also give a micro-loan in the name of a loved one.

For Kiva’s fifth birthday (having loaned over $150 million dollars so far to nearly 400,000 entrepreneurs around the world), there is a special promotion going on through October. If you refer five others who invest, again, as little as a base investment of 25 bucks, the Omidyar Network will invest a $25 dollar credit for you to put into a community. Click here to learn about the October birthday offer, and here to get the full Kiva story. October is a great birthday celebration for these game-changers, but think about a charitable gift to another in the approaching holiday season as well…or do BOTH.

The Blue Sweater

My friend, Mary Pat, gave me this book recently…in between trips-of-a-lifetime to amazing places like Bhutan and Peru and the Galapagos and multiple visits with family charitable projects in Africa…(her life is amazing).

The Blue Sweater is subtitled: “Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World” and is a genuinely engaging read that kept making me go back and read parts over and over. I am a guy who never folds a page, but my copy of this book is dog-eared throughout and I’ve even written notes in the margins (fearing the retribution of my second-grade teacher, who would’ve had a fit to see someone writing in a book). Author Jacqueline Novogratz is also the founder of The Acumen Fund, and she understands—and opens understanding—about issues of global poverty in ways that have, from this point forward, changed my thinking. My eyes glaze over at discussions of finance. I used to rebel against higher math, and math in general, so conditioned myself (and I’m not proud of this) to simply decide I didn’t understand.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is no economics textbook. It is a travel-filled memoir of an amazing woman. She began as a young international banker, and is today one of the boundary pushers in the world of micro-loans. Through personal experiences working in diverse regions with impoverished communities (that make great story chapters) in the favelas of Brazil, the Cote d’Ivoire, Nairobi, additional areas of Kenya, India, Pakistan, and most affecting, pre- and post-genocide Rwanda, Novogratz opens doors with the investment of care and comprehension as much as dollars. The women with whom she shares dreams, and the defeats and victories of an outsider trying to be effective, (the crux of the issue) are riveting, and what has shifted my thinking. The best-intended charitable projects often miss the mark and peter out, and some of Jacqueline’s discoveries at first seem like tough love, but prove so much more appropriate than simple charitable donation. Throwing money at a problem is never the answer…though money is the linchpin for so much.

I am so glad this book was given to me—I probably never would have picked it up on my own—and when a book serves as a line of demarcation: I had these beliefs BEFORE reading this, and they have changed SINCE reading it…that is exactly why writers write.

Journeys Within Our Community

Village communities in Southeast Asia get nurturing help from within and with the assistance of international volunteers via short breaks (a week or so) or longer stints for service (month or more) from Journeys Within Our Community. By working at the local level and focusing on community-determined needs like clean water, education, health, shelter, and emergency relief, JWOC starts projects small that then grow with outside support, gaining momentum and changing lives.

Work projects are in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma). Over the last five years of work, there are now over 70 students in those three nations going to university thanks to the JWOC Scholarship Program. There are three JWOC Free Schools in Cambodia and Laos that operate six days a week.  There are over 300 wells offering clean water to villagers in the Siem Reap area and in Laos local children now have the resources they need thanks to the JWOC Village School Sponsorship. JWOC has also given out over 200 micro loans to families living below the poverty line.

Volunteers work with specialized programs based on the skills you bring (and your skills need be no more elaborate than a willingness to work…but if you have teaching experience or carpentry skills or medical training, let them know when you sign up), and a nice element of the management of this grassroots organization is that long-term projects are re-evaluated regularly, and monthly priorities are established in response to the shifting terrain of change. This responsiveness is hugely important and surprisingly rare among NGOs.

JWOC was founded under the ideal of See a Problem, Solve a Problem…words to live by.


I’d like you to meet my new business partner,  Améwossina Sanvi. She runs a small food store in Tsévié, Togo. I’ve made a micro-loan to her on My loan, along with the loans of others, will allow Améwossina to purchase more rice and oil in bulk and some canned goods to sell in her shop. She has two children she is trying to keep in school while her husband works out of the country and rarely comes back.

There are hundreds of other entrepreneurs you and I can help with a loan of only $25. Most of us have twenty-five bucks, and 402236the beautiful thing about Kiva is that 100% of my loan goes to Améwossina. They asked me online if I would be willing to also donate an additional couple of bucks for overhead, but if I wasn’t able to, it would not have decreased my loan. It is all about getting people on their feet, and when the loan is paid back (I will be getting regular updates during the term of the loan), I can just take my money back, re-invest it in another dream, or donate it to the organization.

What represents a few cappuccinos for me is an opportunity to keep kids in school and keep stomachs full on the other side of the world.

Think about investing in a life or many lives. I have to say, I really love the idea of this—and having a personal story to attach to my donation means a lot more to me than just writing a check to an organization. I’m really proud of Améwossina—she’s a great business partner.