Two years ago I wrote a blog post about the difficulties of really making a difference to poverty (“I want to make a difference”: voluntourism, NGOs, and international aid in Cambodia). Since that time I’ve done some research and discovered a number of organisations that I feel are worth donating time and/or money to. Cambodian Children’s Fund is a very effective NGO located in Phnom Penh’s Steung Meanchey district (read my account of volunteering with CCF at their blog here). And Peter Singer’s website The Life You Can Save has some excellent ideas about how and where to donate (read my post about Singer’s philosophy on poverty here). Finally, one of the best non-profit organisations I know of working internationally today is Kiva: a micro financing group that allows loans to be made to individuals all over the world.
Kiva’s aim is to alleviate poverty, and the organisation believes that “providing safe, affordable access to capital … helps people create better lives”. Kiva uses the Internet to link lenders with microfinance institutions in 73 different countries (including Cambodia). Those microfinance institutions (Field Partners) in turn give loans to people who do not have access to traditional forms of banking.
Lending with Kiva is simple. First, you choose a borrower. You can browse loans that are currently waiting to be filled, or search by gender, sector (e.g. education, food, health, arts), or country. My first loan was to a man in Mongolia trying to buy furniture for his house. Other loans may help someone purchase extra fertilizer for their rice field, create drinkable water, or pay for school fees.
Once you have chosen an individual or group to lend to you are able to make your loan. Loans start at $25, but you can select a higher amount. Once you have made your loan Kiva will send you email updates on its status, and will let you know once the loan has been repaid (Kiva has a 99.01% repayment rate).
Once your loan has been repaid to you the money becomes your Kiva credit. You can choose to reloan it to someone else, withdraw it, or donate it to Kiva (all of the money lent through Kiva goes directly to the loans, so Kiva relies on lenders making optional donations for most of its funding).
I first heard about KIVA through the Stuff You Should Know podcast, which has created a KIVA team to allow more people to loan to one cause. Joining a team is a great way to help make sure individual loans get fully funded. The SYSK team currently has 7,695 members, and has so far lent $2,153,525 in 78,940 loans. Kiva also offers gift cards (and Christmas is coming up …) which allow you to purchase a friend or family member’s first loan for them.
Kiva has the highest rating on Charity Navigator (an American non-profit dedicated to ranking the effectiveness and transparency of charitable organisations), and since signing up to Kiva last December all of the loans I’ve made have been fully repaid. In my opinion, Kiva is one of the best ways of making a difference available today. Check out the Kiva website for more information, to browse borrowers, and to sign up to make a loan.