If you could change someone’s life by lending them $25 would you do it? What if someone else was working with the borrower to make sure you got repaid? What if that $25 not only helped the recipient, but helped her send her children to school? Well that’s the opportunity you have with people like Jessica.
Jessica is an entrepreneur in Santiago (Conchalí) Chile. She buys old shoes at a market, repairs them and resells them. In the process, in addition to helping support her family, she helps provide badly needed money to people with old shoes and provides shoes like new to people that can’t afford to buy new ones. Jessica learned the trade of refurbishing shoes from her father and for eleven years, she has been selling her shoes at market stall Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Jessica’s business has been going well and she has a loyal customer base. However, to get ahead, small businesses need to be able to buy inventory in sufficient quantities and need to be able to buy product when bargains present themselves. For this reason, Jessica was seeking a loan. The amount she wanted was paltry by business standards in developed countries — just $186. She hopes the loan will help her grow her business and eventually permit her to buy a van for it. Her dream is that she will be successful enough that her two daughters currently ages 15 and 7 will be able to get a high school education; and therefore, good jobs.
Jessica is part of a community bank called Compromiso y Lealtad (Commitment and Loyalty). It is like a cross between a micro credit union and a small business incubator. It is made up of 20 entrepreneurs who work in different fields, including selling clothes, shoes, cleaning items, helium balloons, roast chicken, inflatable toys for children, used clothes, tools; and services installing windows, confectionery, woven handicrafts, and other items. They all live in the community of Conchalí, support each other and receive small business training as a group. Collectively, the group was seeking $3,725. By working as a group, the entrepreneurs will be better able to repay the loan.
Lending these funds is where Kiva.org comes in. Kiva is a micro-lending charity. They provide small loans to entrepreneurs and others in developing countries. Their goal is to help lift people out of poverty and boost the greater economy. Kiva works with local partners around the world to conduct the appropriate due diligence on potential borrowers and to administer the loans. Kiva secures the loan funds from individuals around the world that just want to help a worthy cause — people that want to provide a hand-up rather than a hand-out. Kiva pools the individual loans, as small as $25 to fund the various projects, entrepreneurs and people in need. Borrowers pay the funds back like any other loan over a period of time — sometimes as quick as a few months. Lenders can then use the repaid funds to support another project or can even take back their cash.
Kiva is crowdsourced charity, and the power of the crowd is something to behold. I chose to help fund Jessica because her project had just been listed, and as part of a larger group, they were looking for one of the larger amounts of funds. I liked the idea of my friends being able to join me on the project. What I didn’t know was that her project would be fully funded in hours by other Kiva supporters. The flow of funds is humbling. This support is wonderfully captured in this data visualization video from Kiva. If you are involved in a cause, you want to see this video as a great example of a way to present the impact of an organization. If you like to help others, this video will draw you in too.