November 24, 2013

Happy Thanksgivukkah! How to do good in the World with $25.

In one of my earlier blog posts, I once wrote about the KIVA organization. You may have heard of them on news programs or from information talks given by well known persons like President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. KIVA is simply a non-profit organization from California with a mix of employees, contractors, and volunteers who provide a website interface to match you and me with micro-lending organizations in developing countries around the world. A lot of detractors responded by saying, "it was a rip off, or a scam, or could not possibly work". So as a scientist its about time for me to do this scientific evaluation and follow up about how my KIVA based loans have gone. So far, after about 12 loans, I am pleased to report that the pay-back rate of clients from 9 countries around the world is 100%. Read on..

My lending experiences through KIVA. Pay-back percentage
 so far? 100%
Here are 11 of the most recent loan projects I chose to participate in. These are 11 hard working and honest people, Dads, Moms, single persons. They apply for loans from on-the-ground non-profit micro-lending organizations in their communities.

Sometimes the loan required is for improving a market food stand, or another self-run business. Maybe to repair and improve their house for their growing children, or even to get the school supplies and clothes for the new school year. Seeds for the planting season to grow crops for their farm. Maybe to form a new coop for women in the village to start a new source of income. Maybe for a young man with damaged hand bones to get surgery so he can work again. These humble, wonderful human beings have their request for a loan placed on the KIVA website, and then those of us with $25 to lend pick and click who to contribute to. When their $25 loans from tens or hundreds of KIVA users add up to the total loan they need, then they get their loans and have payment plans set for 6 months to a year on average. So far all of the loans I have taken part in have been paid back on time in full. The really cool part is what happens after that.

What does happen after they pay back their loan? Well you, the lender, see that $25 slowly come back into your lending account. When you get $25 back in your lending account, KIVA's system emails you to let you know you have at least $25 you can lend out again if you like. That is the really powerful part. The empowerment part. You can keep lending that same $25 over and over and over again. Helping someone improve the lives of their Family over and over and over again. You can do this from your living room in the USA. We have a lot to be thankful for here, and as Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fall on the same day for the first time in over 100 years, it brings my mind back to KIVA.

Do you ever feel like I do? I listen to the BBC, CBC, read The Wall Street Journal and hear of so many places in world with difficult struggling economies, where wars have ravaged communities, where politics and conflicts make life difficult for the population. Places where clean water from a tap is a luxury, where the only economy is what you can grow for the food stand as you care for your kids. Do you think there is nothing you can do personally? I am just one man or woman. I do not work for the Red Cross, nor do I travel around the world. Do we have no power to help? Here is a list of the countries involved in my KIVA based loans over the last two years.
Kiva loans dispersed in 9 countries

Well, we do have a way to help. KIVA lets us give a $25 loan to the individual human being we want to give it to. Then, we get to see others on KIVA chip in with us to back the total loan. Gradually, we see the loan payed back. If loan repayments become interupted, most often it is because a disaster or war has occurred, like the recent typhoon in the Philippines. Even though I am not a millionaire, nor do I have a foundation, I still have a portfolio of micro-lending that I control. Who and where I loan. These small loans allow me to affect many sectors of the economy, micro-economies, around the globe. Below is the graph of sectors. Just like a chart in The Wall Street Journal. This feels somewhat empowering. The KIVA website provides you with these kinds of information for your loan participation.
Agriculture, education, food, health, housing and retail. Wow! I lent packets of $25, and they all came back to me so far. People around the world, speaking many different languages, from many different cultures and religions, who are all basically the same as we are. Just honest, hard working people who want the same things we want. Health, happiness, love, kindness, kids, education for their kids, a safe life.

So, do you remember the movie Bug's Life? How those many ants finally realize they are powerful when they work together. Well, I am just an ant. But with many other like minded ants, we are kicking grasshoppers around. As of today, KIVA's statistics are impressive. Since 2005, KIVA has enabled 1,015,291 lenders. They work with 280 on the ground partner organizations around the world in 73 countries. They have 450 VOLUNTEERS in these countries. They have lent: $498,031,200, fast on the way to half a billion dollars! The repayment rate to date, for any skeptics? How do you like 99.01% ? That's right, 99.01% of loans have been payed back.

So, this Thanksgivukka (or Thanksgivukkah), for the cost of a Harmonica, you can do something and empower someone with a goal somewhere far away. In places you have never seen nor may never get to see. No one can stop you. You have the power.
Using about $130, and re-lending it as it gets payed back, I have been able to make over $300 in loans. Its like you get to make this little pot of cash work for good over and over again. That is appropriate for Thankgivukkah. Like that oil in the lamp that just kept going and going and that sharing of the harvest with friends and strangers.

Happy Thanksgivukkah! Apparently Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will not coincide ever again (unless someone shifts Thanksgiving, which has moved around a few times because of acts of Congress). So enjoy it. Latkes for breakfast and Turkey for dinner is one suggestion.

If you want to become a world wide micro-banking economic developer too, just head to KIVA.ORG. But, don't let the power go to your head ;)

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