I was looking around for amazing people to include in a future blog entry, and I thought to myself, “I wonder who founded Kiva.org?
For those of you who have never heard of this wonderful organization, Kiva provides microloans to people all over the world and in turn gets those funds from people all over the world in twenty-five dollar increments.
A hundred dollars may not seem that much to you or me, but it can make all the difference in the world to a single mother in a third world country who wants to expand her tortilla business so that she can afford to buy school uniforms for her children.
And what I like most about this organization is that these are loans, not gifts, which means that rather than just throwing money at a situation and walking away, you’re allowing people to have their dignity and be in charge of the decision-making process. They determine how to use those funds to enhance their business and they determine how the resulting bounty will enhance their lives, and they pay you back. You’re not saying, “Oh, here, pathetic poor person. Take some money and go away. That’s the best I can do for you. You’re not capable or worthy of much more.” You’re saying, “Here, let me give you a lift up to the next level. I have faith you’ll make the most of it, and when you do, you will pay me back so I can help another person.”
This really appeals to me because I’ve been poor my whole life, and I know what it’s like to think that if I could just get one tiny boost from someone, anyone, I could get out of this. But it’s never happened for me. At least now, through Kiva, I can make it happen for someone else.
It’s an amazing organization. I strongly encourage you to check it out here. I’ve just done my 47th loan, using the same funds I started off with 6 years ago, because no one, not one single person, has defaulted on a loan. They always pay me back. Every time. It hasn’t cost me a dime, and yet I’ve impacted the lives of 47 people in 37 countries. How amazing is that?
Which brings me to Jessica Jackley. She founded this organization along with Matt Flannery. They saw a man discuss microfinance at Stanford Business School, and Ms. Jackley was so impressed by this that three weeks later she quit her job and moved to Africa to learn more about it. That, to me, is what is so fascinating about her. She was moved by a philosophy, and she moved herself. Just like that. She got to see, first hand, what microloans mean to people.
When she came home, she founded Kiva with Matt Flannery. The first year they provided $3,500.00 in loans. And the concept caught on. In 2010, Kiva participants like you and me had provided 150 million in loans.
Jessica Jackley set out to make a difference, and she did so in an unbelievably impactful way. I encourage you to listen to her TED Talk here. One of the most impressive things she says is,
“The best way for people to change their lives is for them to have control and to do that in the way that they believe is best for them.”
This is a 36 year old woman who started Kiva when she was 28. If I accomplish 1/10th of what she already has in my entire life, I will be one proud woman indeed.