25$ can change lives
Bangkok | Thailand
How to change a life, or even lives, for just 25$? Very easily! Visit Kiva.org.
Vince Main: Kiva is a social platform for social good. In fact, it’s a crowdfunding website, in which we crowdfund for really, really good causes. We collaborate with partners who are willing to work on the ground to reach people with the lowest income, underserved and the most vulnerable population. Our partners get information about what somebody needs to buy, maybe a cow or goat or motorbike, maybe seeds, solar panel, water filter, it can be everything as long as it serves a really strong social purpose. They put details of the loan on our website and our loaning community of 1,3 million people review it and see which loan they want to fund. The funding level is incredibly high, is it actually about 98%. The real benefit and what people like the most about Kiva is that you get a direct line to a side. The minimal loan is 25$, and it’s up to you to decide which person you want to give it. You can search on our website by sector, country, topic, gender, all sorts of criteria. You can see the person, see the photographs, understand the story behind and the reason why somebody needs money. Every single cent goes directly to that person, then over time, it can be half a year, it can be five years for example in educational type of loan, that person pays you back. When the money comes back to you, you can decide to withdraw the money and put it in your pocket or you can reinvest it to the next project. Most money stays in the system and gets recycled.
As Exchange the world we supported a business in Indonesia which produces shoes with recycled materials. It’s an innovative project which helps to protect the environment and gives jobs to people. Innovation is a good word to describe Kiva itself.
Vince: We are constantly reinventing ourselves. We started very traditional, working with organizations based on donations. Then, we moved to social enterprises which are doing the most innovative work on the ground. It was a real gamble, we decided to take that risk and it proves to be really successful. Kiva’s biggest success is not saying we are good so let’s just keep doing that, but we are constantly looking and trying to change ourselves for better.
Akshay Regmi: Our success is also directly connected with the success of those partners who are doing a really good job on the ground. To give just an example, there is one solar services company that not only provides the equipment but also offers maintenance contracts with schools and hospitals in the mountain, where there is no possibility for electric wires to go. These guys go there and they are able to electrify the whole hospital. It’s just amazing.
But to make it happen, Kiva needs lots of people, who are flexible, creative and ready to solve thousands of problems which appear on the way.
Akshay: There is a complex team of staff and volunteers that make this connection between lender and borrower happen, from the click of the lenders till the guy on motorbike who goes through rice fields in Vietnam to deliver the money to the borrower to make his life better.
Vince: The model works, the connections are happening. Every partner and every country is a different challenge. For example, Cambodia has a really overheated market at the moment, too many microfinance organizations. We always try to pick up the one which is doing a really great job, but it may be affected if the whole market just blows up. Different challenges are in Vietnam which is an ex-communist country, they have really tight controls on money. They don’t understand that somebody can give interest-free loans. Getting money into and out of Vietnam can be very challenging.
Akshay: The same is with India. India means money going in and staying for 3 years cannot come out. Kiva figured out the way so that money can go into India and come out. We see challenges around and our job is about figuring out how at the end of the day money will reach people that need it the most.
One of the ways to solve those problems is to find good partners, which will help with delivering money as well as finding potential beneficiaries and educate them so they are able to use the loan in the most efficient way.
Akshay: The ideal organization that we are looking for is an organization that figured out its model, that is doing amazing work, it is operationally sound and just needs this infusion of funding, so that they can scale up, expand people they are affecting and impact.
Having impact was the main motivation for Vince and Akshay to completely change their lives and join Kiva.
Akshay: I was working in the World Bank in Washington DC. The World Bank doesn’t do implementation, it works with governments. For me it was too remote from reality. I was really looking for an organization in which I could see the effect of my work.
Vince: I worked in IT all my life. I was in a huge corporation, enjoying my job, but there was no emotional connection with it. I needed something more. I was introduced to Kiva and it really resonated with me. I’ve been a lender for 4 years, through the website I found a fellowship program and I got selected. It was fantastic. Two weeks later they told me I would go for 4 months to Azerbaijan. After that a new job position of Kiva was opened in Bangkok and I went for it. I applied with quite low expectations, but you always should go with opportunities like that. And unbelievably I went till the end of the interview process and they offered me the job. Here I am.
Vince and Akshay stayed for all those years, inspired every day by things which are happening on the ground. By people, whose life has changed.
Vince: When you see what’s happening on the ground, when you see what life looks like for 2,5 billion people on this planet, you can’t help but be passionate, involved, and to do something to contribute, to make that situation better. I’m proud to be associated with Kiva.
Akshay: Also the job is incredibly fun. It’s a problem solving role. Every day we solve so many different issues. For someone who hates writing reports, as much as I do, it’s a perfect job. We are super-action oriented, solving problems, practical kinds of approach toward things I can do right now that are going to make a direct difference in borrowers' lives. It’s incredibly rewarding. I used to work 80-90 hours for the World Bank but I hated it, most of it. Now I’m excited to come to work every day.
It’s not easy, though, to quit everything and change our life completely. Fortunately, we can start from much smaller things.
Vince: I don’t ask anybody to devote 20 years to work in the jungle or something like that, but maybe you could take 2 weeks off, 3 months off and try, just try something different and see if that actually inspires you, helps you to find the path you would like to follow. I didn’t have that idea till I volunteered and it gave me a completely different view and sense of life.
Akshay: And before that, just go to Kiva.org and make a loan. It may be the beginning of many great things to come.
Vince: Just making the loan on Kiva you can get inspired, you make personal connections and understand how somebody’s life looks.
Akshay: It’s not that difficult. 25$ to change someone’s life.
More about kiva: kiva.org