In October of 2010 I decided to get “off the fence” about microlending when I discovered Kiva.org. Kiva’s website says that it is a “non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”
When I started by depositing $50 I had no idea what a changing experience it would be for me. I’m old enough to remember when you could get 6% interest in a savings account and 12% in a money market account. Today you usually get nothing in a checking account and next-to-nothing in a savings account. Besides my inclination to do good and see where this experiment would take me, I thought about how little I was risking. When I started with Kiva their repayment rate was around 97% and as I write this it’s closer to 99%. I reasoned that it was unlikely that someone would default based upon Kiva’s track record and today I am happy to say that I have lost zero dollars to default or currency fluctuations. As for the interest – $2.00 a year or so on $100.00 doesn’t really excite my savings account. In effect, Kiva can become like a little savings account if you’re ok with the tiny risk.
An interesting thing happened on my journey into microlending – I got hooked. One of the first people to get a $25.00 loan from me was Malia Falaniko in Samoa. Here’s what Kiva says:
Malia Falaniko owns a vegetable garden and used her loan to buy seeds for pumpkin, beans, cabbage, cucumbers, and eggplant as well as Gramoxome to help kill weeds. She feels that since joining the loan program with SPBD, she has been able to extend her business and the purchase of Gramoxome has really helped promote vegetable growth. Malia notes that before her loan, she could only deliver her vegetables to the market once per week, but now that her garden has expanded, she is able to deliver from 2 to 3 times per week. Malia feels that her business is going well and since she has children, would like to be able to improve her home for their benefit.
Malia borrowed $425.00 through this loan and I was one of 17 lenders. She asked to borrow the money for 14 months and I was pleasantly surprised that she paid back the loan early. Malia bolstered my confidence in this new venture.
While the payments trickled in for a few months from Malia’s loan and another to a U.S. woman named Doracy, I noticed that I could add $11.00 to my account. Why? Because I wanted to make a third loan to someone else and I didn’t have to wait for Malia & Doracy to completely pay me back before I could “put my money to work” again!
Over the last 2 years or so I have added another little bit every so often to keep my money working to improve the lives of these entrepreneurs. Now I have a total of $247.00 invested/saved in Kiva’s entrepreneur’s dreams and I have made 35 loans of $25.00 each. Because I am interested in improving the lives of women I have made all loans to women or groups with a majority membership of women.
If you would like to join me in helping women entrepreneurs or anyone at Kiva, you can also join a team that I created under the Kiva umbrella – The Special Purpose Club – by clicking