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Women Entrepreneurship Opportunities Many governments and companies around the world have come to realize that encouraging the advancement of women is essential to the development of communities as a whole.

Five organizations, in particular, are making huge strides to help women entrepreneurship through financing and training programs.

Kiva

Kiva is a crowdfunded lending organization that gives loans to those who can’t access fair and affordable sources of credit.

As an international nonprofit organization operating in over 80 countries, it provides opportunities for people who are financially excluded from the capital to become farmers, pursue an education, or develop business ventures.

It operates by pooling money from lenders that each pay a small part of the loans to minimize the cost to individual lenders while maximizing its effectiveness by joining resources with others.

Since 2005, Kiva has funded $1.22 billion worth of loans to 3 million lenders. While loans are available to both men and women, 81 percent of Kiva borrowers are women.

In support of Kiva’s values and success, Bank of America and the U.S. Department of State partnered with Kiva in 2017 to support the “Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund” that hopes to support 1 million women entrepreneurs by 2021.

Kula Project

The Kula Project is an organization that works out of Rwanda. It is designed to develop entrepreneurs through vocational fellowship programs.

These programs provide business investment training, tips on creating or improving business plans and industry training in artisan goods, coffee farming and agribusiness.

Another important part of the Kula Project’s resources is its one-on-one mentorships that provide information on financial planning, family health and business leadership.

Both men and women can participate in the Kula Project’s fellowship program, but women are particularly benefitting through the organization’s Women’s Centers that focus on training them to create their own sewing, weaving and agriculture businesses to sell handmade products on the local market.

With a business model that focuses on listening to the needs of the community, Kula Project is working to plant the seeds for future success and allow the community to sustain its own development.

Women’s Global Empowerment Fund

The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) provides both microcredit loans and vocational training for business and leadership development for women in Uganda.

WGEF aims to create sustainable human development through the use of social capital building programs that aim to alleviate poverty, empower women, strengthen food security and health among families and generate an atmosphere of self-determination.

The Credit Plus program created by WGEF has assisted women in opening restaurants, bakeries, hotels, construction projects and small to medium scale agriculture projects that also increase local food production, giving women entrepreneurs the opportunity to be new leaders in society.

These successes are even more impressive due to the nature of the post-conflict region.

The clients of WGEF have been former abductees, child soldiers and victims of gender-based violence and they have the full support of the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund.

Friendship Bridge

According to the United Nations and Harvard Business Review, when women earn an income, they invest 90 percent of it into their families and communities. In comparison, men invest 35 percent for the same purpose.

With this understanding, Friendship Bridge works with a mission to empower impoverished communities in Guatemala by supporting women entrepreneurs.

Friendship Bridge uses their Microcredit Plus Program, small loans to impoverished women, as a sustainable business model to lift women out of poverty.

The organization relies on a group lending model that they call “Trust Banks” to instill accountability but also to create support through social capital. Today, the organization helps to support as many as 22,000 women.

Friendship Bridge’s Client Continuum strategy believes that the combination of financial capital (credit), human capital (skills) and social capital (networks) accelerate the services they provide to not only become entrepreneurs but leaders as well.

Clients are required to undergo non-formal education sessions to accompany their microloans, with options for further mentorship and advanced training in business practices or technical training.

These educational advancements have helped women open businesses in textiles, the food industry and has given people the opportunity to access education.

As an added bonus to this organization’s great work in alleviating poverty, it is addressing the largest group of immigrants coming to America, assist them in creating livelihoods and make them want to stay.

Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi)

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, backed by the World Bank, works to address the financial and social constraints that small and medium women-owned enterprises face in developing countries.

This is a widespread collaborative initiative that includes 14 governments, 8 multilateral development banks and both public and private stakeholders.

Starting with $340 million for women entrepreneurs in the first year, the organization is expected to mobilize $1.6 billion in additional investment funds from the public and private sectors and development partners.

These funds will work to provide women with access to debt, equity, venture capital and insurance markets, link women-led small and medium enterprises to supply chains, connect women entrepreneurs with networks and mentorship and improve legal limitations that constrain women-led businesses.

These five organizations and initiatives have proven invaluable in changing the quality of women’s lives, and consequently, transforming the communities in which they live.

Advocacy remains an important part of this change in making sure that people are aware of these ideas and opportunities for change.

– Sara Andresen

Photo: Flickr

 

Important Poverty NonprofitsThe world is full of people trying to do good, some of whom are well known and acknowledged for the work they do. Many change-makers, however, fly under the radar and do not receive the recognition they deserve for the profound changes they have generated. Some important poverty nonprofits have been working to mitigate poverty and disease worldwide for years, and they are the ones who could benefit greatly from volunteers. The following are five groups whose efforts should not go unnoticed by the world.

Five Important Poverty Nonprofits

  1. Mothers2mothers – This group focuses on alleviating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa while empowering women and mothers living with and/or around the disease. Africa is lacking heavily in healthcare workers. Mothers2mothers is an important poverty nonprofit that hires and trains HIV-positive women to fill these roles, thus providing them with the opportunity to gain financial security for their families and giving the community access to much-needed healthcare. Through this method, thousands of jobs have been created and hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved.
  2. Partners in Health (PIH) – Founded in 1987 by world-renowned doctor Paul Farmer, PIH has made great strides in eradicating life-threatening epidemics, such as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, in third-world countries. PIH focuses on building lasting healthcare systems in countries that are severely lacking and providing this service to the poor, who would not typically be able to afford it. To do their incredible work, PIH relies heavily on donations.
  3. Kiva – Kiva is a nonprofit that provides low-income, entrepreneurial women and students with loans to start their own small businesses. They described their mission as “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” Kiva has proven that even small loans can create lasting change in the lives of those who need it. Recipients of loans through Kiva have gone on to build small businesses that allow them to support their families and stimulate the economy of their communities.
  4. Charity: water – This is a nonprofit that works to provide clean drinking water to developing countries. Charity: water uses donations to build wells that would eliminate the need for people to walk miles away to get to a water source. They also provide sand filters and rainwater catchments that promote cleanliness in drinking water, which helps to lessen the spread of disease in impoverished communities.
  5. Concern Worldwide – This organization focuses on long-term solutions in third-world countries. Concern Worldwide responds to emergencies like environmental disasters and genocide. Their past projects have included providing food and nutrition to the starving after the 1973 Ethiopian famine. They are currently working with Syrian refugees in The Middle East.

These five are just a few of many important poverty nonprofits that work to make a positive change in the world, no matter how small. Contributions to groups like these have the ability to create a ripple effect in the lives and communities of those who truly need it. Getting involved can come in any form from promoting the causes online to volunteering time to help with projects. When it comes to making a change, there is no contribution too small.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Micro-LoansFor many of the world’s poor, access to equipment, capital and necessities like basic healthcare are difficult to acquire. Kiva.org is a pioneer for online micro-lending that enables low-income entrepreneurs to do something they otherwise would not have been able to afford. Kiva facilitates connecting a lender to a borrower, who then helps fund a no-interest loan as low as $25 (USD). The borrowers are then held accountable to repay the loan. As of today, Kiva is working in 84 countries and has a 97 percent loan repayment rate. Essentially, micro-lending is working.

Recently, Kiva entered a new lending space: education. With its Student Micro-loans program, now anyone can lend as little as $25 to students. In 2010, Kiva launched in Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador by working closely with its field partners to find prospective students in the three countries and create a customized loan program that works within the countries’ educational systems. Kiva’s CEO Premal Shah stated that moving into short-term student loans was a natural transition for Kiva. Shah saw an opportunity for financing something that had a long-lasting effect, and education fit the bill because student micro-loans create an education option for students in poor nations.

Improving access to education should be a top priority globally. Investing in higher education is a must if a country wants to encourage economic development. Education shapes the next generation of innovators, inventors and experts. Kiva CEO Shah mentioned that a one-year certificate in accounting can mean a 200-300 percent income increase in the countries Kiva is serving. It is a practical method to break generational poverty, which is why many impoverished nations treat education as a necessity. International focus on higher education was prominent during the 1990s, when student enrollment in public education doubled in developing countries.

Another startup, Vittana.org, launched a micro-lending marketplace for students and has since partnered with Kiva to help students get into the workforce and marketplace after matriculation. In 2014, Vittana and Kiva hoped to help 20,000 students access micro-loans for their educations. As a practical matter, the organizations are focusing on countries where jobs are abundant, but most require some level of higher education, like a certificate or degree. The purpose of aiding the borrowers in getting jobs afterwards is to secure Kiva’s interest in repayment. The loan is a loan, not a donation. Once repaid, the lenders have the option to re-invest in another borrower, or in this case, another student.

In short, student micro-loans create an education option for students of poor nations. By enabling education, students around the world have the chance to pursue knowledge and skills, and they are more competitive in the workforce and have the opportunity to break the cycle of generational poverty. When even one person steps away from poverty, it benefits them, their family and their community at large. Facilitators like Kiva and Vittana make it easy for anyone with $25 to get involved. In sum, their strategy is to pursue solutions to the lack of access to school with a simple, working concept that student micro-loans create an education option for students in poor nations.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

Business_Start-Up
Kiva, a micro-finance organization, makes small loans to individuals or groups in developing countries looking to build small businesses or fund other projects.

This type of financing allows the borrowers to potentially repay the lenders when a project has been successful, re-purposing the charity money to another group in need. Financiers believe that this type of lending supports economic and entrepreneurial growth unlike traditional charity.

By lending instead of giving, Kiva enables borrowers to engender societal change by providing them the start they need to create a profit. Seema Patel, a user of Kiva, shares what she has learned from the company: “Give a person a fish, you have fed her for today; teach her how to fish, you have fed her for a lifetime.” This effectively expresses the repayment feature Kiva employs.

Kiva has been the most successful organization in the micro-financing field. It works as an intermediary, posting ads from individuals or groups seeking loans and creating profiles that contain general personal information, a description of the loan needed, and a photo of the potential borrower.

Borrowers are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars based on their previous credit history with loans. 1 star means the borrower is potentially risky or newer and less likely to be funded, while 5 stars means the borrower is a safer investment.

Lenders are able to fund from $25 to $5,000 and the borrowers are only responsible for making their prescheduled payments once the loan has been fully funded. The average loan from Kiva based on their past 289,329 loans is approximately $694.

Most projects receive their funding within a day or less. Of all loans, 78 percent are funded within two days, and 68.17 percent are funded within the first day. There is no evidence to show that loans perceived as risky are funded slower than the loans perceived as safe. The popularity and success of Kiva allows for this fast funding rate.

Data show that lenders are more likely to fund projects that they believe will have a greater impact on alleviating poverty. Loans to men and to projects that request higher costs are often funded slower than loans to large groups of women.

This may be because lenders are looking to alleviate the poverty of groups or individuals who may be lacking a regular source of capital. In addition, loans that are financing education and health have the fastest rates of funding.

Although lenders fund loans with the knowledge that they might not be repaid, the default rate of repayment is only 0.7 percent. Loans to larger groups have higher repayment rates which make them more likely to be funded. The high repayment rate suggests that the loans are successful in spurring potential businesses and other projects.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

Five Charities that Make a Different Kind of Difference
Charities all work to accomplish different goals and, while their goals are all admirable, some seem to stand out a little more than others. The traditional philanthropic method typically involves collecting donations to be spent on aiding a group or cause either by giving away the raised funds or purchasing specific goods to give to those in need. While this charity formula is not wrong, there are other non-traditional ways to do good. Take a look at these five organizations that make a different kind of difference with your donation.

1. Development Media International (DMI) — DMI creates and broadcasts radio and television programs that help educate and encourage people to adopt healthy practices that can improve a community’s standard of living and individuals’ longevity. Instead of using their funding to distribute soap for hand washing or toothbrushes, they teach simple practices that can make long-term differences, practices that can be taught to children and passed along through generations.

2. Kiva — Kiva is a nonprofit that works to alleviate global poverty through individual micro-loans. Donors invest in the form of a small personal loan for individuals to accomplish a project or improve their businesses. Microfinance institutions allow individuals and communities to lift themselves out of poverty by giving them the tools to be economically successful.

3. The Global Alliance For Improved Nutrition (GAIN) — GAIN is an organization that works to eliminate iodine deficiency, which can lead to impaired cognitive development and is common in developing countries. GAIN’s Universal Salt Iodization program uses the funds they raise to provide technical assistance, supply needed equipment and train government officials. In addition, salt producers monitor the results of changes made in developing countries. GAIN targets the root of iodine deficiency and funnels its efforts toward rectifying it instead of simply managing the consequences.

4. VillageReach — VillageReach is a nonprofit that develops, tests and implements new systems, technologies and programs that improve health in rural or poor communities. In the past few decades, there have been great advancements in the medical field, but because of a lack of access to clinics, medicines and trained professionals, many people in the developing world are isolated from these advancements and do not reap the benefits of improved health and healthcare.

This is where Village Reach comes in; instead of focusing money on more vaccines or more doctors, they focus on removing barriers that stand in the way of communities receiving the healthcare they need. VillageReach partners with institutional stakeholders, such as governments and global health partners, to implement the change needed to extend the reach of adequate healthcare.

5. The Borgen Project — Donations made to The Borgen Project have the intention of alleviating global poverty. While your donation will not directly purchase a meal for a hungry child, it has the power to feed, clothe and provide power for an entire community or country. Funds that are raised by The Borgen Project go toward program services, and fund development and operation expenses. This means that donations are used to fuel the machine that pushes political leaders to allocate funds in a way that benefits those living in poverty in developing countries. So your five dollars could influence the U.S. government to pass legislation that provides millions of people with clean drinking water.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Give Well, KIVA, Village Reach
Photo: Flickr

kiva
A spinach farmer in Cambodia, a hot dog stand worker in Nicaragua, a fish seller in Uganda, a carpenter in Gaza and a bee keeper in Ghana were microfinance organization Kiva’s initial borrowers in 2005. However, Kiva has grown in scope and microfinance methods by combating global poverty from multiple angles. This week alone, 27,704 lenders made loans through Kiva.

Today, Kiva’s mission to alleviate global poverty through small-scale lending has grown far beyond its original scope. In the eight years since its inception, the nonprofit has sponsored loans totaling over $540 million. These loans fund over 1.2 million borrowers in 73 countries.

In its eighth year, Kiva is a leader in platforms for social improvement and poverty alleviation. The organization aims to empower low-income borrowers around the world to begin their own businesses, invest in home improvement and clean energies and more through small-scale loans of greater than $25.

Lenders are able to browse the profiles of people around the world who are seeking loans, and choose who they would like to support. Lenders then receive updates on the progress of their loan, connecting them to a larger global community dedicated to supporting low-income earners.

This concept of small-scale lending can be defined as microfinance. Microfinance is loans, savings and financial services for the poor or those without access to traditional banking systems, and the idea that these small-scale funds ultimately help to lift low-income borrowers out of poverty.

While effective in many ways, microfinance can also be limited in its reach due to high-risk costs and loans for more impoverished borrowers. In some situations, microfinance may not be the ideal way to assist borrowers, and cannot function as the only tool to fight against global poverty. In order to combat these limitations, Kiva seeks to be a more flexible form of microfinance by moving past economics and deeper into issues of agriculture, education and clean energy.

Currently, only 0.3 percent of microfinance borrowers take out loans for energy solutions. Kiva aims to combat the barriers of high cost and availability faced by low-income earners by taking on more creative, pay-as-you-go lending systems for borrowers. With credit delivered in more flexible ways, users are able to benefit from technologies while making their payments over longer periods of time.

Over the next decade, Kiva hopes to see clean energy products become regularities for its borrowers around the world. The ultimate goal for the nonprofit is the use of sustainable supply chains, improvement of health and well being and falling prices for renewable energy products.

Kiva has also increased awareness of microfinance in educational communities around the world. In August 2013, the organization launched Kiva U, a movement for students and educators dedicated to changing the world through microfinance. The initiative provides toolkits, resources and potential curriculum to promote communities where high school students, college-age students and teachers can connect and share ideas.

In October, Kiva hosted its inaugural Kiva U Summit, where 150 students and teachers came together to connect and discuss microfinance in an evolving world. In the same month, Kiva hit its one million lender milestone.

Through creative mechanisms and user-oriented strategies, Kiva has proven the potential for microfinance success in addressing low-income communities.

“Our approach is to see what works and share the results with a global audience,” Kiva President Premal Shah said. “Ultimately, our hope is to get high-impact products to people who have been too long overlooked, and demonstrate their success to the global market.”

 – Julia Thomas

Sources: The Borgen Project, Kiva, Kiva(2), Triple Pundit, MIT Press Journals
Photo: Design to Improve Life

kiva
Interested in empowering the poor? Look no further than Kiva, a San Francisco based nonprofit that has provided over $542,899,850 in small loans to poor entrepreneurs around the world. Founded in 2004, Kiva makes it easy for individuals to lend as little as $25 to provide affordable capital to beneficiaries and help them start or improve a small business.

This practice of lending is known as microfinancing, and Kiva operates under the idea that poor individuals are able to lift themselves from poverty if given access to the proper financial services, such as access to loans and savings accounts.

Kiva keeps things personal and helps prevent the dehumanization of the poor by connecting the lender and the borrower directly. Using a person-to-person setup, Kiva allows potential lenders to browse the stories, pictures and loan proposals of beneficiaries before choosing an individual to lend to.

Kiva loans have a 0% interest rate and 100% of each loan goes directly to the borrower. Kiva does not take a cut, rather, their business operations are funded through donations from various grants, corporate sponsors and foundations.

The lending process begins with the selection of Field Partners in the 73 countries where Kiva works. These partners consist of social businesses, schools, microfinance organizations or other nonprofits that are committed to using credit to empower the poor.

Kiva Field Partners identify borrowers, administer loans and send pictures as well as stories of the borrowers to a team of volunteers that translate the stories and publish them to Kiva.org. Lenders then browse these stories and are able lend anywhere from $25 to the full price of the loan to the borrower they select.

As the borrowers repay their loans, Kiva provides repayments to lenders. Kiva boasts an impressive 98.93% repayment rate over 1.2 million funded borrowers. Once loans are repaid, individuals can re-lend their money to another borrower – and another, and another.

Traditionally, credit is often available to the poor through informal or erratic means. However, in many cases, these informal moneylenders charge such high interest rates that business owners are left with little working capital.

Kiva’s work allows the poor to attain affordable credit, which opens the door to economic opportunity. Studies by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) show that borrowing money helps households manage cash flow and regulate consumption as well as deal with everyday crises that may arise. Tangible impacts seen include households making greater investments in the education of their children, better nutrition and living conditions, and an increase in healthcare services when needed by members of the household.

In summary, using the resources provided by lenders via Kiva allows poor households, “to make the transformation from ‘every-day survival’ to ‘planning for the future.’”

– Madisson Barnett

Sources: Monica Brand: Stanford, CGAP, Kiva
Photo: Kiva

Minneapolis-market
A little over four years ago, pastor Kurt Vickman announced to his church that he would be leaving in order to better dedicate himself to the innovative, Minneapolis Market, a “no-cost food club” for people in need.

Leading up to his retirement, Vickman rallied the church around this new food shelf, filling empty space in the church with shelves and cans of food, encouraging donations for the Minneapolis Market vision.

Unlike typical food shelves, where families walk in and are handed a box of mystery items, the Minneapolis Market offers a grocery store setting for anyone in need to come in and “shop around” just as if they were buying their own groceries. Members are offered a reusable bag and coffee upon arrival as well as someone to help carry the groceries home when they leave.

The market works as a food club like Sam’s Club or Costco, where individuals become members and are given a membership card. All members are then assigned a sponsor who is responsible for putting $10 on the cards each month, which covers the cost of a month’s worth of groceries per person thanks to a charity partnership with Secondhand Harvest and the generosity of personal donors.

The experience of being able to shop “adds respect to the process of a food shelf,” Minneapolis Market co-founder Dustin Heigel said in an interview with the local news. This was the vision of Pastor Vickman in 2010, when he came across a small closet-sized food shelf and realized how dehumanizing and humiliating the experience can be.

Focusing on aid that allows people choice and gives them opportunity while providing what they need is key for Minneapolis Market. Vickman believes that if we only pay attention to certain aspects of human need, such as food, water and shelter, we neglect to address mental, emotional, and spiritual needs such as respect, acknowledgment, and hope.

On a larger scale, there are organizations such as Heifer International, Beads for Africa and Kiva International also based on the principle of providing humanizing aid that not only provides people what they need but makes them feel more and more human.

In Steve McQueen’s acceptance speech for “12 Years A Slave” at the 2014 Academy awards, he said, “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live.” Aid provides people with what they need to survive and flourishing organizations such as the Minneapolis Market and others are focusing on evolving aid to mean so much more.

– Heather Klosterman

Sources: Minneapolis Market, Kare 11
Photo: Star Tribune

women_education_global_poverty
It has been said, to fight poverty start with educating women. Sounds simplistic, but by no means can it be argued as a holistic or the only solution to global poverty. What has been proven without a shadow of a doubt, however, is that from the shadows of our patriarchic cultural past, women still do not enjoy full equality.

In the U.S. This manifests in lower pay and lower rates of CEOs, high executives or public officials, a travesty for sure. Yet in many countries around the world this inequity in rights manifests in much more horrific ways. One does not need to look any further than Malala Yousafzai, and her recently well publicized campaign. What’s disturbing is that what happened to her is a daily occurrence around the world.

So again, while it may not be a silver bullet, attacking poverty by starting with women is an argument that is well founded and arguably proved by social science academia as an extremely effective way to start.

Coupled with the longstanding stance that education is the way out of poverty — i.e. an ability to be self-reliant — to have the knowledge and understanding to progress yourself into a better situation. And, perhaps even more importantly, is the aspect of early childhood education as it is a crucial role of programming the roots of individuals.

Therefore, it could be naturally deduced that women’s education, or even more specifically girls’ education, is one of the areas where more focus and understanding should be applied.

With research institutions and think tanks like OXFAM and UNICEF providing information, and micro-finance or hands on organizations like CARE.org or NURU international, everyone with an internet access and 2 bucks to spare can make a huge impact on moving this planet towards a better more equitable place for all.

Here are some organizations working directly in this arena that you can look into for more answers, or to become an active participant in the solutions:

1 – The Borgen Project
2 – Nuru International
3 – Care.org
4 – Kiva.com
5 – UNICEF
6 – UNESCO
7 – Global Fund for Women

Tyler Shafsky

Sources: Huffington Post, CNN
Photo: Huffington Post

KIVA_Crowdrise
1. What is KIVA’s main goal?

Shah: Kiva is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first and largest crowdfunding platform for social good. Visitors to Kiva.org can browse through the photos and profiles of people all over the world seeking a loan and choose those that they want to support with a loan of $25 or more.

Kiva’s community of one million lenders crowdfund more than $2.5 million in loans per week. These small dollar loans have helped more than one million low-income borrowers start and grow businesses, go to school, improve their homes, buy clean energy products, and more.

Kiva leverages the power of collective good and new technologies to push the boundaries of economic opportunity in unique ways. With the philosophy of empowering people around the world, Kiva is providing safe, affordable access to capital. Since its founding in 2005, Kiva lenders have loaned over $480 million in 72 different countries.

2. Tell me your most inspiring success story. Which of your clients really stands out from the others?

In one moment, Yenku Sesay’s life was changed forever with the swift, savage cut of a knife.

On May 6, 1998 Yenku had the misfortune of being home when soldiers from the rebel army, Revolutionary United Front, invaded his village in northern Sierra Leone to cut off the hands of people who voting for the country’s current leader. Yenku pleaded with the rebels not to cut off his hands. But the rebels took a certain enjoyment from the process. Each prisoner was pushed forward for his or her punishment and had to choose slips of paper in a gruesome lottery. The paper either said “short sleeve” or “long sleeve.” Yenku pulled two long sleeves. His hands were severed with a machete, first the left, then the right. Many of the victims did not survive.

Yenku would likely have soon died if his father had not taken decisive action. Yenku’s father used the family savings to hire a motorbike to take Yenku for treatment in a hospital hours away in the country’s capital city, Freetown. It took 3 days to find a motorbike they could use, and for these three days Yenku waited without any medial treatment. During that time, Yenku was just hoping to die.

Due to the treatment he received at a hospital in the nearest city, Yenku eventually recovered from the physical wounds. In other ways, however, his life was destroyed. He was incapable of taking care of himself and eventually resorted to begging in the streets of Sierra Leone. He was just 21 years old.

Yenku would still be begging today, had he not been approached by Salone Microfinance Trust (SMT), in 2006, about taking out a group loan with four other local borrowers to help them learn a trade and start a business. No other institutions were even willing to consider Yenku for credit because of his amputee status. However, through lengthy discussions with Yenku, SMT saw in Yenku natural business skills and a drive to be self-reliant.

Yenku used this money to develop a modest retail business. At first the business was no more than Yenku selling small items in the street, such as packaged biscuits, soaps, and other sundries. Over the past two years, by reinvesting the profits and building his credit with SMT, Yenku’s business has grown to become a small shop selling an assortment of clothing, shoes, drinks, and other packaged food products.

Yenku dedicated himself to his business, and every month he made his repayments on time and often early. With the profits from his retail business, Yenku has recently expanded into livestock and agriculture. The result is that Yenku is now self-reliant.

Today Yenku is married and has become a provider. He can feed and clothe his three children. He sends both of his school-age children to primary school, and he even pays for his younger brother’s education.

Thirty-three people from six different countries helped to crowdfund loans to Yenku by chipping in $25 through Kiva.org to support his business. Yenku has paid each and every one of them back.

3. How does KIVA make an impact in terms of poverty?

Kiva is striving to bring access to crowdfunded capital into the hands of the working poor around the world. In addition, we are increasingly seeking ways to crowdfund new types of loan products for the working poor to help increase access to clean/green energy, education, and more.

4. What do you think is the most important factor for KIVA’s success?

Designed to be user-friendly, Kiva enables anyone with an internet connection and $25 to engage in our microlending movement. This incredibly low bar for participation has helped Kiva become a pioneer in the crowd funding space and brought microlending into the mainstream.

People are by nature generous, and will help others if given the opportunity to do so in a transparent, accountable way.

Kiva was born from the knowledge that individuals are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty if given access to financial services – all they need is access to just a little capital, and Kiva loans provide just that.

By connecting people we can create relationships beyond financial transactions, and build a global community expressing support and encouragement of one another.

These core values continue to drive Kiva’s evolution and have resulted in more than 1 million lenders reaching out around the world to lend their support to more than 1 million people working to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Proof of a compelling mission and a sustainable model.

5. What do you feel sets KIVA apart from other organizations?

Microfinance has immense potential for improving the lives of the poor. In the last 40 years, it has reached nearly 200 million people. But — while the existing system strives to reach everyone — traditional microfinance still leaves a huge number of people out:

·       Subsistence farmers enduring uncertain seasons and harvests.

·       Students who make the grades but can’t afford college.

·       Extremely rural families with little opportunity.

·       Millions more who have the potential to change their lives with the right loan products.

Traditional banks and microfinance institutions are often unable or reluctant to offer flexible loan products to meet these people’s needs – mostly due to high costs and risk.

Enter KIVA. With more than one million lenders worldwide who don’t think like banks, Kiva is a powerful source of flexible, risk-tolerant capital. More and more, we’re directing this capital to social enterprises, NGOs, and microfinance institutions that are going beyond classic microfinance to take on issues like education, clean energy, agriculture and others that are central to poverty alleviation and economic opportunity.

Through Kiva’s lenders, we provide crowd-sourced capital to relieve the cost constraints on new ideas. And together with this new breed of Kiva partners, we’re testing and developing new financial products for borrowers worldwide.

Our approach is to see what works and share the results with a global audience. Ultimately, our hope is to get high-impact products to people who have been too long overlooked, and demonstrate their success to the global market.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: KIVA, BizDayTech
Photo: Imagur