This post is part of the travel bloggers give back project. This initiative has travel bloggers writing about their favourite charities in the weeks leading up to Christmas, in order to raise awareness and hopefully raise some funds for some really great organizations.
There are many charities that I am involved in, and many causes that I whole heartedly support out there. I used to volunteer with Oxfam and I have always been a major fan of the David Suzuki Foundation. However, for this project I wanted to be involved with an organization which could reach and inspire the maximum amount of people, and more importantly, one which would touch a chord with travel lovers and travel bloggers.
Kiva – A non-profit micro-lending organization
Kiva is not your average charitable organization. In fact, it might not fit the typical definition of a charity at all, because you eventually get all your donations back (in theory). Kiva is actually a non-profit micro-lending organization. Donations are not donations at all, but are loans. So, what does it all mean?
Micro-finance is just like it sounds. It is financing but on a smaller scale. Kiva helps supply low level loans to people in developing nations, in order to help lift them, and in turn – their community – out of poverty. The idea is simple. Why donate some school supplies to a village school – which will eventually be used up – when you can help a local entrepreneur set up their own school supply business so that they can support their family over the long term, and where the money will eventually make its way back into the community to circulate for years to come?
Poor people, with access to savings, credit, insurance, and other financial services, are more resilient and better able to cope with the everyday crises they face. Even the most rigorous econometric studies have proven that microfinance can smooth consumption levels and significantly reduce the need to sell assets to meet basic needs. With access to microinsurance, poor people can cope with sudden increased expenses associated with death, serious illness, and loss of assets. (From the Kiva website – About Micro-finance section)
It is easy to become a Kiva lender!
When you visit the Kiva website, you will be able to search through all the people seeking loans and financing to find the person who you most identify with and want to assist. Your loan can be as low as $25 and goes directly to providing the loan to the person or group you have chosen. Once the loan is repaid, your repaid monies go back into the Kiva system and you can chose another person or group to lend to. This means, your initial loan can be recycled over and over again to help people all over the world!
With Kiva you have the choice of who you want to lend to. You can chose the type of business that you want to support, the type of repayment terms that you prefer, and you can even see the risk ratings of each loan seeker. With Kiva you know that your money is going directly to help the people who are needing it – instead of going to cover the administration costs of wages of the organization itself. (When you donate there is an option to also donate to Kiva’s operating costs – but this is completely optional.)
James and I have wanted to get involved with Kiva, ever since we first learned about them through the Stuff You Should Know – How Microfinance Works podcast. The travel bloggers give back project was just the kick in the pants we needed to get started!
Jade lends to Mongolia
I have always had a fascination with Mongolia. The idea of a nomadic life on horseback, with a back drop of rolling steppes has always seemed so romantic and idyllic for me. Unfortunately, many of the traditional nomadic herders are having a hard time preserving their traditional way of life and are now moving to Ulaan Bataar to face a life in poverty. Although there is not much that I can do as one person, to help preserve the nomadic life style – there is something I can do to relieve the life of poverty by helping provide loans so that people are able to seize each economic opportunity that comes their way.
I also wanted to lend to a woman. In many communities world wide, women have a much harder time accessing traditional loans and financing and have an even harder time then their male counterparts in starting their own business, etc. Micro-financing is particularly beneficial to woman – it empowers them and helps them take control of their own economic future.
I decided to loan to Munkthsetseg. She is a teacher in western Mongolia, but even her salary combined with her husbands does not meet her families expenses. She is seeking a loan of $2,350 to purchase a car to start her own taxi business. I decided to loan to Munkthsetseg because not only will the taxi business help improve her families standard of living, but also the additional of a car to the family will provide emergency transport if anything happens to a member of the family.
James lends to Zimbabwe
James decided to lend to the Budiriro group in Zimbabwe. His loan has just been fully funded by Kiva users and have now been released to the Budiriro group! In mid November 2007 Zimbabwe’s currency had collapsed completely, prices were out of control, doubling every 24 hours. This was the second worse case of hyper-inflation ever recorded (the first being with Hungrey in 1946) and crippled the country. The Zimbabwe dollar was taken out of existence in April 2009 and replaced by the US dollar. Since then things have gotten a lot better and with local entrepreneurs like the Budiroro Group, who make and sell clothes, the country should have a much more hopeful future.
Our future with Kiva
James and I always try to be both environmentally conscious and also socially conscious when we travel. We try to cut down on our carbon emissions when possible, and always look into volunteering opportunities in the places we are travelling to. We love Kiva because it allows us to help people in ways that neither of us would be able to as individuals. In the future, we hope to make several Kiva loans to each place we intend to travel.