By now you should have received your gift certificate to Kiva.org. Given your active engagement with the world of human rights and global betterment, you probably already know that Kiva Microfunds is a microlending organization dedicated to funding institutions in developing countries, which in turn lend the money to small businesses.
For those that are not familiar with this organization, however, Kiva is remarkable because it gives everyone an automatic and tangible way to make the world a better place. To participate, you choose one of the hundreds of qualified entrepreneurs profiled on the website, and you lend however much you can to help them reach their goal. You can read all about these entrepreneurs, and see how many previous loans they have received as well as their rate of default.
One entrepreneur I've decided to support is Pendra Diallo:
"Mrs. Penda Diallo is a divorcee aged 40, mother of three children, who lives in Sanankoroba, a village situated 20 km from Bamako (the capital of Mali) where she is a social worker in the SOS children's village. Sanankoroba is situated in the second administrative region of the Republic of Mali.
Penda sells 'pagnes' (lengths of brightly colored African print cloth), bedsheets, fabrics, etc. In her search for complementary financial resources, she decided to join the micro-finance institution Soro Yiriwaso. She is on her first individual loan after having correctly reimbursed three group loans (solidarity loans) and with this loan she intends to buy 35 'pagnes' and 15 sheets
She does her buying at the market in Bamako, then sells for cash and credit in Sanankoroba. She hopes to make an average monthly profit of 55,000 F CFA so that she can not only reimburse the loan but also invest in her business and contribute to family expenses."
None of your money is a donation. Via profiles on their website, you keep track of how much of your loan has been repaid each month, and when you have been paid in full, you have the choice of reloaning the money, donating it to Kiva to fund operating costs, or withdrawing the money.
Thanks to Wikipedia, here is a partial list of famous/influential people who support Kiva Microfunds:
- Nicholas D. Kristof wrote about the organization in "You, Too, Can Be a Banker to the Poor", New York Times, March 27, 2007.
- Frontline and The Oprah Winfrey Show had segments devoted to Kiva.
- Kiva is mentioned in Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World, by Bill Clinton.
- League of Virtue LoV—a non-profit network and life-change strategy to help ordinary people build micro-giving concepts into a sustainable lifestyle—showcases Kiva as a critical part of what it call “sustainable human compassion.”