I’m still grooving on Limecello’s Social Media for Social Good idea. We are up to 369 comments on her original post, and each comment means several dollars for Save the Children and their work during the awful famine in Africa.
I was raised to do a lot of charitable giving; my parents always gave to the less fortunate, even when times were “tough.” I thought I had it rough as one of six kids in a single-income household; I didn’t always get the latest toys, gadgets or fashions, and I didn’t get to attend the Ivy League college to which I was accepted, because even with scholarships, we couldn’t afford it. (I had to settle for an extremely elite private college in-state — poor me!) But I had some perspective on my circumstances, thanks to my parents and a dear family friend, Father Richard Timm. Father Timm worked with the poor in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and every year we sent him the money my mother figured we had saved by giving up dessert for Lent. He always wrote to tell us what he had done with our contribution; there were many heart-wrenching stories over the years, and I grew up with the knowledge that I was very fortunate and that I could make a difference for those who weren’t.
When Father Timm came home to the U.S. to visit, he was full of more stories. Some of my favorites were his accounts of helping people, especially women, learn to support themselves and provide for their children, both through education and through setting up cooperative agencies that allowed them to sell what they could make or grow at a better price than the pennies they could earn working for others. In college, I wrote a paper about these independent third world entrepreneurs for an economics class, riffing on the old “if you teach a man to fish” proverb.
Almost five years ago, I came across the organization Kiva, in a New York Times column by Nicholas Kristoff. I loved the concept and became an enthusiastic participating lender. Kiva works with nonprofit micro-lending organizations all over the world. They collect small contributions from people like me until they have enough to support a loan to someone who wants to better provide for themselves and their family, but who needs capital to begin or expand their small business. When the loan is repaid, as almost all of them are, the donors get their money back. I have had only one loan out of 20 go into default, and that was due to civil war and political & economic turmoil driving the nonprofit local lending partner out of business (in Rwanda). Every other loan has been repaid or is in the repayment process; I have re-loaned the same money over and over, helping lots of different people willing to work hard to help themselves.
This is not to say that I don’t believe in charity; I still give to organizations like Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders, working to help those who can’t help themselves. Both kinds of help are urgently needed all over the world.
What prompted this particular blog post was a message I got from the folks at Kiva. They are providing funds for 4,000 new donors to try micro-lending for free. You can sign up using the link below, browse through the web site, pick an entrepreneur you’d like to help, and Kiva will make the $25 minimum donation for you. You can see how the system works and track the loan’s progress and repayment. Maybe you’ll decide that you like this means of helping others and join up with a little donation of your own — even just $25 can be loaned repeatedly, making hundreds of dollars’ worth of difference.
So here’s the link to Kiva’s offer to let me recruit you. I promise I’m not doing this for the free t- shirt! You can click on the bee & flower avatar to see the loans I’ve made over the years, if you’re interested, and/or accept the invitation to make a free loan.