A few months ago I read the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It is probably the best book I have read all year and one of the most important books I have ever read. This is the sort of book that will not leave you unchanged. I could say a lot about it, but I’ll just refer you to my on review on Goodreads.
At the end of the book the authors give some suggestions for actions the reader can take in the next ten minutes. One of them is to make a micro-finance loan. I had heard of micro-finance loans before and I know many see them as one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty worldwide. But I had never given one.
So I spent some time on the website for Kiva. I decided to contribute $25 to Umeda in Tajikistan. Umeda is a thirty-four year old woman with a small store who needed money to buy fabrics to sell in her store. My $25 was part of a total $650 loan to Umeda. I entered my payment info, gave the loan and moved on with my life.
Honestly, I forgot about it. Growing up in the church, you are asked to give money all the time: to the offering each week, to help missionaries overseas, to sponsor a child, to support fantastic organizations. It is a part of what it means to be a Christian. Someone asks for help and you give. You never get anything back other than the satisfaction of knowing you helped with something bigger then yourself.
Then two weeks ago I got an email telling me the loan had been repaid. When I made the loan I knew it was a loan, not a donation, which meant it would be repaid. But I do not think the truth of that quite dawned on me. The email both surprised and excited me.
Getting the loan repaid was just very cool. It was a different sort of satisfaction then the kind that comes when you give a donation. In this case I realized I had not just given money to someone, I had helped empower someone to start a business and this person had worked hard and paid me back. It reminds me of the old adage, “if you give a man a fish…”
Plus, all of a sudden, I had $25 sitting in my Kiva account. Of course I gave it to someone else, this time I chose Harriet in Uganda:
Harriet is a 45-year-old, married woman living in Masindi, Uganda. Eleven years ago she decided to venture into farming to tap into the lucrative agricultural sector, which is the backbone of Uganda. She also sells clothes as an additional source of income. With these business operations, she has been able to buy land and to build a house. Like most farmers, she faces business challenges such as price fluctuations and unpredictable seasonal weather changes. Nevertheless, she dreams of ensuring that her children become educated and expanding her farming activities. To that end, Harriet is requesting a loan to buy seedlings for planting and to pay workers to till the garden.
My prayers are with Harriet and Umeda as they work to build their businesses and care for their families.
My message to you is – make a microfinance loan. There are many organizations to do it through and you will change someone’s life. Not a nameless someone, but a person whose picture you will see, who has a story, a family, hopes and dreams.