Kiva was introduced to me in my final year of high school as one of the possible ways that I, a broke high school student, could help people living in poverty on the other side of the world…without even leaving my desk!
Kiva is an international non-profit organization that was founded in 2005 and is located in San Francisco, but mostly based on their website (https://www.kiva.org/). Their main purpose is to connect people all around the world with the purpose of borrowing and lending money to help people get themselves out of poverty. This means that they want to connect me – a 23-year old girl looking to use her money to make a difference – with someone like Aisha in Jordan (https://www.kiva.org/lend/1621759) who is looking to buy a sewing machine and related material in order to start her own business.
Kiva uses something called micro-credit (which just means small loans) to make starting a new business, or making an investment, easy for someone who does not have a lot of money. The borrower (someone like Aisha, who was mentioned earlier), applies for a loan with Kiva. In this application, they explain how much money they need and why they need it. Once the application is approved by Kiva, they will then post the borrower’s story on the Kiva website. This is where the lenders (or me, with my $25) come in. The lenders use Kiva’s website to browse all the different people who are looking to borrow money, and then read their story. Using the lovely Aisha once again as an example, Kiva tells us about how she had to leave her home country of Syria because of the war, and how she is now trying to make a living by using her skills in sewing to become a tailor in her new home country of Jordan. Seeing this story, in addition to details like how long it is going to take Aisha to pay back her loan, I (the lender) decided to contribute $25 towards Aisha’s request of $725 in order to help her get the equipment that she needs.
Once enough people contribute to the borrower’s loan, the fundraising stage is complete. This is where things get really inspiring! Once the borrower receives the loan, they work with one of Kiva’s Field Partners to start their business. Once their business starts making money, they return the money that they had borrowed to Kiva, and Kiva gives it back to the lender. Once the lender gets their money back? They get to start the whole process all over again! That means, once Aisha’s tailoring business starts making money, she will return the $25 that I gave to her through Kiva, and I will be able to take that same $25 and lend it to someone else who is trying to start a new business, or who is investing in making their lives better.
Kiva borrowers are all across the world, in more than 80 countries. The people who borrow the money are usually people who live in places where banks are too far away or can’t be accessed for financial reasons. The people who borrow money through Kiva can be farmers, students, shopkeepers, builders, and usually work multiple jobs just so that they can support their families.
Kiva lenders can be anyone! It can be a student in Toronto, or a whole class full of students in Vancouver, or a group of desk-mates in an office in Sweden. Anyone who has access to the internet and a credit card can be a Kiva lender.
All of the people who make it happen and focus on the details in between are called the Field Partners and Trustees. These are different groups and organizations who will work with Kiva by finding borrowers, looking through their application, giving them the money, and collecting it afterwards.
Personally, I love Kiva. It uses my favorite poverty relief strategy – empowerment. Kiva is not a hand-out, and it is not trying to give the answers to people who may not need any answers at all. It gives a chance for hard-working people to create their own ideas, work hard to achieve their own goals, and ultimately get themselves out of poverty. All we have to do is support them by giving them a small loan of $25 (which could be reduced to even $5 if you got a group together and each contributed a smaller amount!) and watch them succeed. The best thing about Kiva is that I only have to give my $25 once, and then I can just keep giving each time that my money is returned! When I was in my high school and we all donated on Kiva together, we were able to give to 3 different borrowers in one semester! All with the same $25 that we started with in September.
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