Changing the World One Life at a Time

This week, we continue thinking about the concept of giving.  There is no doubt that Elle’s story about Heifer International (featured in the previous entry) caused many of us to think about our own lives and giving/purchasing tendencies.  Elle’s story is a call to each of us, not only to think about what we can give, but also how much we have and what we can live without.

This week, we continue to ask these questions, but also begin to provide a few answers.  Not too long ago, I interviewed two students from the University of St. Thomas in Houston who have come together with other students (most of them business and international development majors), to create a micro-lending club.  Micro-lending, as they will explain, centers around the idea that individuals can loan money to other individuals in need using the internet.  The most popular vehicle for micro-lending at the moment is Kiva, with whom the UST students have become partners.

Here is an excerpt from Kiva’s website describing what they are about:

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding – not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

I decided to pull one such success story to give you an idea.  Meet Maria Elena from Ayacucho, Peru who has already paid back $276 of her $550 loan.

Maria Elena used part of her Kiva loan to buy bedspreads, medical clothing and surgical materials to sell to local hospitals. She added the rest of the money to her FINCA savings account, which she proudly says is growing steadily. She’s currently in the process of using her savings to buy a plot of land, and she tells me that if it weren’t for FINCA, she never would have been able to save so much. “It seems like a lie!” she tells me, referring to the way her savings account has grown. Several years ago, she used part of her savings to buy a mototaxi, which she now rents out to earn extra income. She says it’s very reassuring to know that she has money saved up in case any unexpected illnesses or other emergencies come along.

As you listen to this 14 minute interview, I hope it will cause you to ask yourself about how you can give to others and think about your own spending habits.

DOWNLOAD:  Small Steps Around the World (15 min)

CREDITS:  “Small Steps Around the World”  Conversations with MacrinaThe Congregation of St. Basil, February 23, 2008.


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