In the long chill of our worst financial times I used a permanent marker to write affirming words inside our checkbook cover.
abundance ease hope purpose prosperity gratitude plenty
I also started a tradition of making a donation each time I paid our bills. I figured we weren’t truly in trouble until we couldn’t help someone else. Sometimes it was for a local fund-raiser, but mostly it was one of many carefully vetted charities aligned with our ecological and social concerns. Each donation wasn’t much, but I made them.
I’ve kept up with that tradition and started another a few years ago thanks to a non-profit which offers a way of making the same donation do a world of good, over and over again. It’s based on microlending. Muhammad Yunus, who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work, popularized microloans worldwide. These are tiny loans to the very poor, often in combination with other services such as healthcare, savings accounts, networking, and peer support. For decades, such loans have made a difference to people with limited access to financial services, particularly for women. Initially hyped as the solution to severe poverty, research shows the economic effects are more modest — resulting in the start-up or expansion of small businesses, more reliable sources of food and transportation, better educational opportunities, and higher overall wages. The improvement in individual lives is significant when nearly half the world lives on less than $5.50 a day, with a quarter living on less than $3.20 a day.
Anyone can get started making microloans as small as $25 through Kiva, lending money to people a state away or continents away. When they pay the money back, you can loan it over and over again. You might loan based on what means the most to you; perhaps to women in agriculture or refugees establishing businesses or people working in the arts. Each loan request is accompanied by a snapshot and information. For example right now Tuli, from Samoa, makes elei printed materials and needs a loan to buy more supplies. Lidia, from Uganda, runs a restaurant and needs a loan to help her buy more plates, saucepans, and staples like maize flour. Safarahmad, from Tajakistan (who paid back a previous Kiva loan) is applying for support to begin a beekeeping business. Norma, from the U.S., seeks a loan to buy equipment to expand her housecleaning services.
Kiva loans, overall, have a 96.7 percent repayment rate of loans to people in 77 countries. Since 2005, Kiva has crowdfunded more than 1.6 million loans. A billion dollars alone have been loaned to women.
I got started with $25 and, adding what I could over time, I’ve built up my Kiva account to the point where I’ve made 52 loans (and counting). It’s astonishing to be able to offer others a portion the abundance I realize I’ve always truly had.