Can the cost of a meal out, or a movie with snacks, be a force for peace in the world?
In 2006, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a man named Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank for their work with microfinance: not small business loans, but TINY business loans, often less than $1,000. Over the next several months, I became interested in news stories about microlending, and the idea that an amount of money that seemed small to me could aid an entrepreneur in a developing country to improve the prosperity of a business, a family and a community.
What an appealing idea. But, until I heard about Kiva, I knew of no way to add any of our own resources to the effort. That changed yesterday when I sat down at my computer to learn about this amazing organization.
Kiva is a non-profit group that lets me (or you) connect with and loan money to small businesses in the developing world using a computer and the internet. From their website, you can help sponsor a business of your choice for as little as $25 (charged to your credit card). Your contribution is consolidated with those made by other lenders into a loan of as little as a few hundred dollars and loaned, through a micro-credit organization, to a specific borrower for a specific need.
This is not a donation; it is an unsecured loan (with the possibility that it cannot be repaid), made for a specific time period with a specific repayment schedule. When the loan is repaid, you can choose to reinvest with a new borrower or to withdraw your funds.
I won’t try to explain more than that - the Kiva.org website does a WAY better job than I can. I WILL say that exploring the website and setting ourselves up as micro-financiers was fun, interesting, and rewarding, and the website is designed to keep it that way: profiles of borrowers and lenders (you can see profiles of others who have lent to “your” borrowers); a link to your portfolio, showing the status and analysis of your loans; journals describing the progress of the borrowers.
For Odel and me, as full-time RV’ers, the Kiva website is an inspiring way to participate in a larger community effort for positive change - without the need to be anchored in a physical community. I see it as a direct opportunity to wage PEACE, and I am most grateful.