I heard about Kiva, a U.S. based non-profit organization that facilitates micro-lending between people from all of the world to individuals that are in need, way back in early 2007. The concept sounded intriguing yet dead simple (lend out a loan, and they pay it back). I was skeptical at first because of the obvious accountability issues and I was reminded of the typical email scams of relaying funds from people in impoverished places. However, after reading through their operational model (read more from wikipedia), I thought I would sign-up anyways to learn more and perhaps test it out. Soon there after, I found out that they were not accepting any more lenders and thus I was put on a waiting list. I never really thought about Kiva again until I came to Nepal.
Seeing micro-lending from the field
One of the organizations that I volunteer for (General Welfare Pratistan – GWP) has a micro-lending component that helps empower marginalized communities in Nepal as part of their Peace building through Self-Employment program. More specifically, this program focuses on supporting women who are greatly susceptible to trafficking and who are likely forced to enter the sex trade. Along with micro-loans, GWP also provides women peer-support counceling and various work skills development workshops.
I have read (and proof-read) many reports and success stories about how people have benefited from this type of self-empowering support program. Examples from GWP include stories about women and families starting their own sheep and goat farm, vegetable crop farming, creating and selling recycled paper products, candle making, opening a grocery store, and even starting a beautician salon. All beneficiaries have said that the micro-loans system has immensely improved their lives for the better as it not only provided the needed start-up funds but it also made them more accountable, enhanced their self-esteem and more self-sufficient in the end.
Microfinance became one of the most powerful tools to address global poverty, and it has been doing so in a way that builds self-esteem in the individual and self-sufficiency in the institution providing the financial services. It works in synergy with other development interventions such as those that promote health, nutrition, awareness on HIV/AIDS, migrant workers, democracy, and education. Microfinance is a key strategy in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and building global financial systems that meet needs of most poor people.
(State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2006, www.microcreditsummit.org)
After hearing about these stories and even meeting some of the people who have benefited from micro-loans, I again thought of Kiva and revisited their web site briefly. I began to think about the bigger “development” picture and although certain safeguards and checks have to be in place, I can see microfinancing being an effective tool in community development.
(I also found an old email saying that I can be a lender now).
But again, after this brief revelation I quickly got distracted by something else that was cool-but-obscure on the Internet and I never got around to doing anything about it…..until this fateful morning.
Rex! I have something for you to blog about!
Kiva… and here is the more part
So here I am today, equally ecstatic about Kiva (and perhaps even more, read on…) as I am filling out my Kiva lending profile and reading more about where and how Kiva works. However, I’m not just doing this for myself but for GWP as they could potentially be a Kiva Field Partner. I mentioned the concept of Kiva to our executive director and he was very excited about the possibility. GWP has implemented microfinancing programs for years and their is already one Kiva partner based in Patan (Patan Business and Professional Women).
We’ll begin investigating the option next week.
Watch the Kiva Story on YouTube and Vimeo:
…and Kiva working in Nepal!