Helping Others Help Themselves

June 15th, 2009

KivaOver the years I have looked for good charities to support that are honest in their desire to truly help others on their Path. There are many excellent charities, but many of them focus on giving hand-outs. There are food banks, homeless shelters, charities that give money and yet others that give necessities to those without.

I do not wish to bash these, as they do serve an important purpose. But I’ve been uncomfortable with them because I’m concerned that they unintentionally help to perpetuate a dependence in the people they help. The larger issue is to help prevent a Catch-22 between situations where someone is truly without the basics of life and getting them to the point where they leave their dependence behind and forge ahead to enact their will.

When someone is completely without food or shelter, they cannot focus on anything else. They need these things, so it is good that there are charities and individuals who wish to help such people. The problem is that after a while, the person may become comfortable in their situation of having their food and shelter provided for. Just look at long-term welfare recipients.

So what can be done to help someone who has a way to provide for their immediate needs, but not enough to really follow their will? They live in poverty, but are not able to get the capital to rise up. What will help them get off the charities and government roles and into a position to contribute to society and in turn help others?

I have found a great charity that can help those who wish to devote themselves to following their will and getting out of poverty without making them dependent.

Kiva is a charity that connects people who wish to help others (with as little as $25) to poor, exploited or vulnerable people who wish to start or grow a small business. The difference between this and most other charities I know of is that Kiva does not give hand-outs, but microloans.

If someone wishes to start or grow a small business to help their family and community, they are commonly unable to raise the funds to make it manifest. They might need to buy equipment or inventory but are just living paycheck-to-paycheck. Banks turn them down (as they do most small business owners who ask for a bank loan) and their families are unable to invest. Many others who lend money to the poor charge exorbitant interest rates and require minimum payments that guarantee default to scam the borrower from what little they have.

These aspiring business owners can apply for a microloan (normally $10,000 or less) through a microfinance institution (MFI) that partners with Kiva. The microfinance institution is a company that acts like a bank that focuses on lending to poor, excluded and/or vulnerable people to alleviate poverty or reduce their vulnerability.

Once approved by the MFI, the MFI submits the entrepreneur’s profile to Kiva where it is shown to people like you and me. We can browse the global list of entrepreneurs (which now includes entrepreneurs in the United States) and choose one or more to lend $25 or more to.

Kiva does not take any of the money lent; they pass all of it on to the loan that is given to the entrepreneur. Instead, Kiva asks for an optional donation to help cover their costs. The MFI does charge the entrepreneur interest, which the MFI keeps for their expenses. Kiva screens the MFIs to ensure they are legitimate and that the interest they charge is reasonable for the loan size and the circumstances.

Through this program, many people with limited means can follow their dreams. As with any loan, there is no guarantee that the loan will be repaid, but that is part of the journey. Some people will fail and need to try again. Those who succeed will repay your loan so you can either loan again to someone else, or withdraw the money.

Kiva is a great way to help others help themselves. They cannot become dependent on it long-term, but it will help them get started. It also allows the recipient to keep their respect and dignity in a way that a hand-out doesn’t because they can (and are expected) to repay the loan on terms that they can meet.

There is a Kiva lending team for Wiccans and Pagans called Wiccans, (neo)Pagans, Witches and Fellows that you can join to show your spiritual affiliation as you lend, giving and additional benefit of good publicity for Paganism.

Join over 70 Pagans, Wiccans and Witches today and find $25 to lend to help someone get ahead at Kiva.

PS: I was not solicited to write this post, nor am I receiving any compensation of any kind other than the joy of sharing this charity with you.


2 Responses to “Helping Others Help Themselves”

  1. ThunderWalker Says:

    I’ve heard of these in the past. They’re great ideas.

    Maybe I should see if they would help someone like me.

    I haven’t had contact with you for a while. I hope all is well.

  2. Morninghawk Says:

    It is worth a try. The Opportunity Fund is the MFI for the US micro-loans. You can check them out at opportunityfund.org.

    Everything is going well with us, just extremely busy (as shown by my lack of blog posting these last six months).

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