Recently I attended a conference for church leaders and one of the seminars was given by a very impressive young woman by the name of Jessica Jackley. Jessica is one of the co-founders of a website called www.kiva.org which is the world’s first person to person micro lending website.
This is a very exciting website. Their purpose is to ‘connect people through lending to alleviate poverty’. Basically how it works is that you go online and loan a specific individual a small sum of money to help him or her start or develop a small business. These small entrepreneurs are only looking for micro-loans, amounts of around $500 – $600 (£300 -370). The big banks are not interested in loaning such small sums but it has been shown that putting this small amount of money into the hands of people committed to being self-supporting can often be all it takes to lift them out of poverty and give them and their family improved life chances and opportunities.
Each individual seeking a loan is supported and trained by a local micro finance institution which then uses the Kiva website to post up their details. So if you’d like to loan some money to a potato farmer in Uzbekistan or fisherman in Indonesia or a single mum sewing baby clothes in Columbia, you can do just that. Don’t worry you don’t have to loan the whole amount they are seeking. You can just loan a $25 amount (about £18, when you pay by credit card or paypal it will tell you the amount in Sterling). When you scroll down below the individual’s details you will be able to see the names of everyone who has loaned that individual some money to help them reach their goal. This is so moving! Real people, all complete strangers to one another dotted all around the world coming together to help another stranger lift himself or herself out of poverty.
Jessica’s own story about how she, her brother and a few friends came up with the idea around a kitchen table and then made it happen. Amongst her leadership advice she recommended having a common simple purpose and a non hierarchical structure with a ‘dream team’ to lead and inspire. (I cheered quietly as that last sentence describes brilliantly how Activate Your Life is run!). She said ‘when you truly believe in the potential of other people you give them dignity and respect’ (more cheers!). Kiva has grown very rapidly and gone from a small pilot project to a huge enterprise passing on millions of dollars in loans from individuals to individuals.
The default rate on loans is 98.5% that means virtually all loans are paid back. When you are informed that your borrower has paid back your money you can choose to either have the money back or reinvest it in another small business. When you offer a loan you are asked if you would like to donate a small extra amount to cover Kiva running costs, this is optional and even if you don’t pay it 100% of your loan will go out to the borrower.
Go take a look at the site. It took me 5 minutes to make my first loan to a lady farmer in the Congo with 5 children to support. Amazing!

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Comments
  • Mandy Catto

    Thanks Sheila, this is a great link to an amazing woman making a difference in the world.

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