How can a retired Telephone Worker in Canada have a direct impact on the lives of a few Working Poor in Developing Nations? I think I have just found out how!
During our travels through Mexico we got to see first hand how people can create a thriving business and provide for their families with a very small initial investment. We saw a tiny business operating out of a stairwell, cutting up mixed fruit and selling it in plastic cups to people walking down the street. We saw tiny (two or three plastic table) Taco Stands doing a thriving business with nothing more than a small gas barbecue to cook on. There are countless other examples but the commonality between all of them is that only a very small initial investment is needed to get them operational and to break the cycle of poverty. It is hard for us to realize but a large percentage of the world’s families live on less than $5 per day.
Kiva http://www.kiva.org is a non-profit organization out of San Francisco that collects small ($25) “micro-loans” from individuals all over the world and passes the money to qualified people in Third World and Developing Countries. The people applying for these loans require very little. One woman in Africa wants a loan of $200 to buy tools and a truckload of logs that her husband will cut and split and she will sell in small bundles in her village. The cash earned will provide for their family, repay the loan and leave enough to buy another load of logs. This initial tiny $200 investment will provide productive jobs for two people and security for their whole family! A farmer in Peru needs a $250 loan to buy seed and fertilizer for his small field in order to increase production of the crops that he sells in the street market. Amazingly, the default rate for these loans is close to 0%. When you make a loan, you get to pick who it goes to. These people cannot go to a bank as they have no assets and no banking history.
I started out by making a $25 loan to Ama, a 38-year-old mother of five who operates a tiny neighborhood grocery store in Obuasi, Ghana. Her store is large enough to stock more items but she needed a $400 loan to purchase more goods to sell. This will greatly increase her income and allow her to pay for her children's education! She will pay the money back over eight months. Not bad for $25.
My second $25 loan was to Marleni, a 29 year old single woman in Ayacucho, Peru selling cosmetics and children's clothes on the street. She needed a $700 loan to purchase stock. She will repay the money over four months. Her dream is to someday open a Beauty Shop. For the price of a meal out I helped her towards her dream.
When these loans are repaid I will be notified and will have the opportunity to either withdraw the money or to reinvest it in other small businesses. The transactions are handled by PayPal, which has waived their normal fees as their contribution to Kiva. I am paid no interest for these loans but I get the pleasure of knowing I made a difference.
Please have a look at the website at http://www.kiva.org. If it fits in with what you would like to do, give it a try.