As part of a birthday present last August, I signed up for Kiva, a service that provides loans to the working poor in countries around the world. People are trying to (among many other things) raise money for a cow so they can make and sell cheese in Azerbaijan, for supplies for a beauty salon in Uganda, or to open a photography studio in Togo.
Our job is simple. We choose which businesses we want to support and provide some money to help fund that business. Not a lot, perhaps just $25.00. Those small loans are combined with other Kiva members and once all of the funds are raised, the business owner gets that money and soon after starts paying it back over some agreed-upon period of time usually in the 6-12 month range. Over the past 6 months or so, I've loaned money to 15 businesses. Some are just starting but two of them have already paid back the loans.
Kiva's website does a good job of explaining microfinance and it is actually very interesting to understand why the working poor have such a hard time getting even small amounts of money to start or grow their businesses. For me, though, it is much more satisfying to look at the loans in my "portfolio" and know that somewhere around the world, someone is working to make their business better and that in my own little way, I'm helping them.
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