Change a Stranger’s Life

There are plenty of emotions that arise during all the documentaries we’ve watched recently, the most common ones I’ve had are amazement and anger. Constant amazement at how clever people are, and anger at corporations and (less often) governments for reducing that cleverness to greed for money. This is why a concept that my sister told me about is so brilliant – it avoids the greed of corporations and powerful people.

KIVA is a microfinance organisation that connects (relatively speaking) rich people in the developed world with poor people needing small amounts of money to do basic things, like grow food or become educated or start a business. How clever is that. Dr. Mohammad Yunus is credited with bringing microfinance to life in the late seventies, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work. His central idea is that where normal banks see poor people at risk of default, he recognized the inherent goodness in people and their desire to repay the good faith someone shows them. I didn’t spend too much time looking, but I found one stat that said 7% of prime American loans (i.e the ones considered low risk) are in default – KIVA stats suggest that almost 99% of their loans get repaid.

But to me, this repayment doesn’t matter. The amount they suggest as a loan is US$25, and they group my money with that of a few other people, so that the loan to the recipient is significant enough to start or continue their own business. It’s helping them to help themselves. In my eyes, if that $25 doesn’t get repaid then I’ve donated it to someone who needed it way more than me.

Also, they satisfy another criteria of mine when donating – avoid denominational organisations. Religion is a large multi-national organisation greedy for members and capital in exactly the same way as corporations and governments. Yes, their charities (much more often than not) do good work, but I see no need in them also promoting their own agenda at the same time, it is possible to help people and not simultaneously indoctrinate them. In that regard, with KIVA one can choose what project they would like to support, align it with their own interests so to speak.

So now I have contributed to Anais Veronica in Peru, who has a business selling sugar cane and needs funds to buy more stock and a bike to make deliveries more efficient. My amazement continues: from people’s lives in Peru – which are so different to ours; to the people who thought to connect us; to the fact that with today’s technology it happens in an instant.

Small Habit, Big Change – Help a poor person out of poverty with KIVA

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6 thoughts on “Change a Stranger’s Life

  1. Nice one Schonny – KIVA is very much a ‘think locally, act/against globally’ concept, with ‘local’ being individuals struggling due to global neo-liberalist structures (multi-nationals, major/mass religions, mass media etc.) which care very little for micro-level (read poor) folk or their well-being unless there’s profit to be made. On the other/opposite hand, programs like KIVA are a true benefit of globalisation, both in terms of their consciousness-raising and their intended outcomes (just like your blog!)…

    Rant over.

  2. Micro finance is a great way to offer support not charity. It promotes independence for the recipient rather then the malaise that can come with hand-outs. Good work in highlighting a solution to developing the humanity within us and the world.

    peace & love

  3. Further on the micro-finance philosophy of Yunus and the foundation of the Grameen bank…his inception of credit for the poor was not only a method to fund small ventures, but also to increase community interaction, cohesion and female empowerment – as originally loans were only to be granted to village collectives of women who would manage the apportioning of funds, the collection and repayment of funds as well as ensuring that money went towards what it was originally stipulated for. Women were chosen as fund managers not only to increase bargaining power and input – but also because men are more likely to blow the cash.

    • thanks for adding further weight to the concept, really how great is it!?
      I heard somewhere once that you could solve all the problems in africa by giving the charity money directly to women instead of men – they’re not going to buy a gun when their child is starving.

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