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lending wisely with Kiva (+ the power of the story)

You’ve heard the phrase “give a man a fish and he eats for a day – teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

Well, Kiva likes to say that their people already know how to fish.  They just need a loan to help them buy the nets.

The critically acclaimed peer-to-peer microcredit institution is so successful because they have a good business model.

Notice that even though it’s a “charity,” they have a business model.  That’s because Kiva realizes that charity, when it’s not done right, actually cripples those it’s trying to help.

As author Robert Lupton puts it in Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It):

“Give once and you elicit appreciation
Give twice and you create anticipation.
Give three times and you create expectation.
Give four times and it becomes entitlement.
Give five times and you establish dependence.”

Blindly throwing money at a problem isn’t liable to solve anything.  We must do charity well, with the head and the heart.

Kiva taps into this in advancing the fact that today’s poor aren’t looking to be made into charity cases; they’re hardworking and capable individuals who are a strong part of their hardworking and capable communities.  They’re not looking for beleaguered condescension because today’s poor deeply understands that true charity is never a one-way interaction.  They’re desperate not for pity but for people who will partner with them for mutual benefit.

Today’s poor are seeking entrepreneurial risk over trite recompense, economic opportunity over being handed a fish.

And it’s about time we caught up with them.

Kiva does just that by harnessing the power of the Internet to connect small business-owners and entrepreneurs in developing nations with compassionate individuals and communities (microlenders) across the planet.

One of the ways Kiva encourages “ordinary people” to make small loans to people abroad is by recognizing of the power of the story to connect and motivate us all.

I mean, there’s a reason the first thing you see when you open Kiva’s homepage is a visual collage of…faces.

Kiva’s correctly realized that humans are a great race of writers and poets and painters and reporters and storytellers.

And we’ve always been like this.

Individuality over ignonymity.

Narrative over numbers.

Story over statistic.

It’s why some of the most popular charities in the world are still the ones you knew as a kid (where your parents would get a picture and a handwritten letter every month from some child in a developing country), it’s why good movies are able to make us root for the characters we’d probably strongly dislike in real life, it’s why one death is a tragedy but a million is…a statistic.

Kiva knows that what really drives gut compassion is the empathic, connecting power of the story to reveal our shared and mutual humanity.

Me in the suburbs, the kid in a gutter in South Africa, a rice farmer in Cambodia…we breathe the same air and we bleed into the same earth.

So, (my calloused heart somehow bent by these men and women’s soft faces) I decided to try this whole Kiva thing out for myself.  I scoured the site until I found my first business partner.  I pulled out my credit card and held my breath.

This is Anderson.

He’s from Kenya.

That’s him and his small electronics shop above.  With a small loan I made over the summer, I was able to help him purchase more equipment to expand his business and reduce his operating costs.

Anderson paid me back four days ago.

Holy cow.

I almost didn’t expect it.

So I decided to find somebody else to fund instead of withdrawing the money.

Next, I passed on the money to Ulmaskhon.

She’s from Kyrgyzstan.

Ulmaskhon (whose annual income is around $2,100 by the way) is a gardener who makes her living cultivating and selling seedlings with her husband and son.

Her loan is fully funded just as of this morning.

Once she pays me back, I’ll be able to pass the same microloan on to someone else.

It’s a chain of roses.

So my friends,

I tell you with honesty and sincerity of heart that

Kiva is legit.

If the spirit of Thanksgiving has at all bled into your heart, go borrow your mom or dad’s credit card for a minute.

I’d really encourage you to take a step towards healing this earth and changing someone’s story for the better by making a small loan through this link here (I’ll get to make a free loan as well).

Seriously, readers.  I challenge you ALL.  At least think on it, pray on it, read some of these people’s stories before you decline.

Because if loaning (not giving, loaning) someone $25 dollars can truly change the course of their whole story and help improve their life irreversibly and exponentially…well, it just seems too good to pass up.

Think about it.

-R

What do you think of Kiva’s business-minded approach to charity?

In your own experience, how has the idea of an individual’s unique “story” served to build bridges?

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