Last year, Brandi encouraged fans to pick up a book called Half the Sky. This heart of this book is about creating opportunity for and empowering women across the globe, focused mostly on third-world countries. The book is a very difficult read, describing the horrors that so many women experience that are almost beyond the realm of imagination for those of us privileged enough to live in developed nations. It does not allow you to sit passively by and not take action...it's essence is a call to action to find out where and how you can help, and do your part to solve the problem of the oppression of women.
One of the organizations mentioned in the book is kiva.org. Kiva works with microfinance institutions across the globe and brings together groups of individuals who are willing to provide loans of as little as $25 to help alleviate poverty. People who are seeking loans are connected with their local microfinance organization, they complete a profile on kiva.org, stating what they want the loan for, and individuals can filter through the potential loan recipients and lend to those individuals or groups who are seeking the loans. The borrowers make regular repayments, and the individual lenders can choose to reinvest in another project or withdraw their money once the loan is repaid. It is a fairly simple and extremely useful concept.
I chose to become one of those lenders on kiva.org as a way that I could help those who need assistance. And, luckily, discovered a Groupon for kiva loans that allowed me to double my $25 investment and make two $25 loans to those in need. Last week, I sat down to find a couple of people to help out with these two loans.
Much of the discussion in Half the Sky centers around Africa, so I decided I wanted to select someone from that continent to begin my Kiva lending. I also wanted to choose a project that was nearly funded and help push it over the requested funding level. I ended up choosing to invest in Biasha from Kenya, a woman who buys fish to resell to neighbors house-to-house. Biasha requested a loan of $175 in order to expand her fish purchases. She is married, and has six children, all in school - their biggest monthly expense is school tuition. Her loan is now fully funded, and will soon be in repayment mode.
I decided that my other loan would go to another part of the world, and selected to invest in someone from Jordan. Feda is a married woman in her 50's, running a mini-mart to support her family. Feda requested $650 to purchase more items to sell in her mini-mart. I also wanted to choose a loan that was just starting out raising funds - as of my writing, Feda's loan is just 13% funded.
It struck me that what we in America would think of as relatively small loan amounts can have such a large impact on people's lives in less-developed nations. This is a pretty cool way to help people directly and see the impact your funds can have directly in the life of someone halfway across the world from you. If you have $25 you can spare (or maybe even a little bit more), check out Kiva and find someone to help out!