The older I get and the further I travel, the more I realize how fortunate I am to have been born to a family who believes strongly in education and has afforded me with many opportunities to follow my dreams. Growing up, I never had to worry about what to eat each day, whether or not my water was safe to drink, or if my family would be forced to run from war, strife or conflict. I have been blessed and am fully aware of it which is why I have dedicated a big part of my life to giving back by either volunteering, donating money or my time as a writer for social justice causes.

With the tremendous need and upheaval in the world today, it is easy to become overwhelmed and complacent. Trust me, I have had to put the newspaper aside many times and I relish the moments when I can escape from all the bad news. Yet, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing good in the world or nothing you can do to help. There is indeed a lot of good happening every single moment of the day. The news just doesn’t cover it always as unfortunately the bad news is the news that sells. Therefore, I will continue to share some of the amazingly good and beautiful things happening out there in the world today on my blog and how you can personally make a difference.

“Dreams are universal, opportunity is not” – Kiva

Over the past several years, we have all heard many harrowing stories about the refugee crisis. If you are like me, I read the stories with a heavy heart, often feeling completely helpless on what on earth I can do to help change such a massive problem. Despite the fact that more people have been forced to flee their homes by conflict and crisis than any time since World War II, there is hope that refugees can rebuild and change their lives and there are organizations out there that are making a difference.

Kiva, the world’s largest crowdfunding organization, is doing just that by offering micro loans to refugees, something often perceived too risky due to their undocumented credit history and unstable livelihood. The good news is that Kiva’s newly released World Refugee Fund Impact Report has shown excellent results.  Kiva found that loans to refugees have a repayment rate of 96.6%, right on par with 96.8% for all non-refugee loans during that same period. Through the help of Kiva, refugees who are financially excluded now have the opportunity to get a small loan, and these loans can make an enormous difference on their lives.

As a strong supporter and lender to Kiva, I was immediately intrigued by this exciting news and had the opportunity to interview Jessica Hansen, Global Engagement Manager at Kiva to share more about Kiva’s mission and how they are making a difference in the lives of people around the world. Here is what she has to say.

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Photos above: Samira came to Lebanon in 2010. Her Lebanese neighbor Soaud encouraged her to take out a small loan from Kiva so that they could start a business reselling wedding dresses, and in turn, Samira could supplement her hairdressing business. Samira doubled her income with this money, and now calls Soaud – her business partner – “more than a sister.” Photo credit: Brandon Smith for Kiva

Q&A with  Jessica Hansen, Global Engagement Manager at Kiva

Who is Kiva, what is the mission, when was it founded and by who?

Kiva is the world’s first and largest crowdfunding platform for social good with the mission of connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty. Kiva lenders crowdfund an average of $2.5 million in loans each week throughout 86 countries, creating a unique, renewable pool of funds that is reshaping access to financial services around the world. The international nonprofit was founded in 2005 by Matt Flannery, Jessica Jackley and Premal Shah after they were inspired by their travels and the entrepreneurs they met around the world, and by the work of Nobel Peach Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

How does Kiva work?  

On Kiva, anyone can help a borrower start or grow a business, get an education or pursue their dream with as little as $25. Visitors to Kiva’s website can search by category, such as agriculture or education, or by region and browse through individual profiles and stories and choose the entrepreneurial projects they want to lend to. Many people use the site to explore the world by learning about new places through borrower profile, while others stay connected to the places they are from or places they’ve visited by connecting with and supporting Kiva borrowers in those places.

Partner organizations on the ground in countries all around the world facilitate the loans to the borrowers. Once the loan is repaid, that money can be put toward another entrepreneur, student, or project on the site or withdrawn by the lender. We believe lending alongside thousands of others is one of the most powerful and sustainable ways to create economic and social good. Lending on Kiva creates a partnership of mutual dignity and makes it easy to touch more lives with the same dollar. Fund a loan, get repaid, fund another.

Who does Kiva help and why does it make a difference?

Kiva loans help to support people all around the world looking to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. A loan as little as $25 can help someone access clean water, pay medical bills, get an education or even start a business with money they otherwise would not have access to. When a Kiva loan enables someone to grow a business and create opportunity for themselves, it creates opportunities for others as well. That ripple effect can shape the future for a family or an entire community.

When did Kiva start working with refugees and why?

Kiva launched its World Refugee Fund on World Refugee Day (June 20th) 2017 in response to the unprecedented scale and duration of the refugee and forced migration crisis. While immediate and urgent humanitarian assistance is necessary for refugee communities, Kiva recognized that as the situation becomes more prolonged, a focus on longer-term solutions was also necessary in order to provide a source of income for disenfranchised families and new, sustainable solutions that can both help the displaced and support the communities that host them.

Nour saw an opportunity at a clothing shop she frequented and thought they could use some help. She gained the courage to ask the owner for a job, and then took out a loan from one of Kiva’s field partners which helped her step up into a business partnership that would otherwise be unattainable. Photo Credit Brandon Smith for Kiva

What has been the result/impact of these loans to refugees?

Kiva lent more than $3 million to refugees in 2017 and expects to deploy more than $6 million in loans to refugees and internationally displaced people in 2018 alone, with an overarching goal of reaching more than 28,000 refugees with $26 million in loans by 2020. Analysis of the refugee loan data we’ve collected over the past two years shows that refugee and IDP borrowers have an extremely high repayment rate that is on par with non-refugee borrowers – 96.6 percent versus 96.8 percent, respectively. Another meaningful finding is the growing reciprocal trust between refugees and members of their host communities – connecting unlikely neighbors in remarkable and sustainable ways!

How can consumers help?

Anyone with $25 and access to a smart phone or computer can make a loan on Kiva.org. If you would like to lend to refugees and internationally displaced people, please visit here.   

Forced to flee her native country of Syria, Walaa came to Lebanon and got married about 10 months later in the interest of safety. Walaa is pregnant now, and with her Kiva loan, she pays for winter expenses like food, living needs, rent and heat. In the near future, she hopes to get an education and start a business.Photo Credit Brandon Smith for Kiva

What I love about Kiva is the brilliant concept of using small micro loans to empower people in the developing world to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. These are normally people who do not have access to traditional bank accounts and Kiva’s micro loans provide the missing link that they need to succeed. Kiva’s loans not only improve but change thousands of lives and what a greater gift than providing opportunity and empowerment, especially to women.  As little as $25 can make a huge impact on someone’s life. It is quite amazing.

Want to learn more?

Visit kiva.org. “Dreams are universal. Opportunity is not. Lend as little as $25 to create opportunities around the world”. – Kiva. I love this quote as it is so true. I often return from traveling and choose to provide a Kiva loan to the country I traveled in and enjoyed. It is my small but important way to give back for the gift I received.

12 comments

  1. LOVE your philosophy of following up on your travels with a microloan. Thank you so much for introducing Kiva to your readers.

    1. Thanks so much! Yes Kiva is truly amazing. What I like most of all is you can chose who and how you want to loan to and you get the money back so you can reinvest it again. It is truly amazing. Thanks for reading.

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