Saturday, April 19, 2008

Give a Man a Fish to Eat or a Fishing Pole?

Americans are the most generous people in the world. Even the poorest Americans will dig into their pockets to give generously to those in need, and go without themselves as a result.

When I think about organized charity I have several concerns. I do not doubt that they do good, but I always wonder what percentage of my donation actually gets to the intended recipient. Yes, I know charities have overhead, rent, wages, advertising etc., but none of that makes my concern any less valid.

Then there are the uglier demeaning implications of charity, hopeless people standing in line waiting for a handout. The loss of self respect. The loser label from those who should know better, 'poverty is a state of mind' they say, blissfully ignorant of the realities of life on minimum wage, or no wage at all.

What is the solution? What can we do that will empower and enable people to help themselves while keeping their self respect? Something that is not a handout but a helping hand. Anyone who has ever tried to get a loan when they actually needed money knows the answer to this! You are only credit worthy if you don't need a loan.

Micro-finance has been around for a while, it consists of making small loans, to individuals, micro-credit to establish or expand a small, self-sustaining business. For example, a woman may borrow to buy a pig to breed, and sell the piglets or seeds so she can sell vegetables. Each expansion of her business pulls her and her dependents further out of poverty.

The seed I would like to plant right now is to introduce you to an organization called Kiva, Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is a non-profit that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur in the developing world. Your money is an interest free loan and Kiva keeps none of it. Every last penny goes to the borrower and when you are repaid you can either lend it to someone else, or take it back.

You choose who to lend to - whether a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a restaurateur in Cambodia, or a tailor in Iraq - and as they repay their loan, you get your money back. It’s a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone right now to lift themselves out of poverty.

You can check Kiva out by clicking on the link to the right, tell them Henrietta sent you!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I currently have FIVE loans out to Kiva participants. I LOVE the idea of helping some farmer on the other side of the world buying a calf to raise and sell.

Three of my earlier beneficiaries are already making payments back on their loans.

I have a client who is dying of cancer who insisted on paying me for doing her tax return . . . I took the money and loaned it at Kiva and will keep it in play forever . . . as long as that money is still circulating, she will never really die.

I'm so glad you posted this Tee, it's such a great way to help someone, and so much better than just tossing them a fish.