Posts

Microlending Organizations
In the fight against global poverty, one hot-button issue is how to provide aid without the implication of paternalism, the idea that one person or group knows the interests of another group better than that group knows its own interests. Tariq Fancy, the founder of the nonprofit The Rumie Initiative, recalls hearing a Kenyan relative’s view on problems with international aid, saying “don’t walk in assuming that from your perch in North America you figured out all the answers for Africa.” Putting resources and power in the hands of communities both provides aid and acknowledges that they can make decisions about local interests. Microlending organizations have the power to do just that

Microloans are small loans at low-interest rates. Individuals living in poverty often have difficulty securing loans from traditional financial institutions due to a lack of borrowing history and assets to use as collateral. Even when people can get loans, interest rates are often high. People often use microloans to finance small businesses in their early stages, enabling people to overcome barriers and progress toward lifting themselves and their families out of poverty.

Microlending organizations can also issue loans for community projects, like building wells or funding schools. Microlending organizations typically, but not always, issue loans funded by individuals rather than by banks or other financial institutions. Here are four companies and organizations that use microlending in different forms to empower people living in poverty.

Four Microlending Organizations that Empower the Poor

  1. Kiva: Kiva crowdfunds loans from people around the world and uses partners to issue them. The nonprofit has enabled the funding of more than $1.33 billion in loans. Kiva emerged in 2005 and has partnerships with financial institutions throughout the world, where it transfers the crowdfunded money. The local field partners then loan money to Kiva’s lenders. Kiva has a 96.8 percent repayment rate and operates in 78 countries. On Kiva’s website, lenders can sort loans by region or category, such as agriculture, women and eco-friendly.
  2. Zidisha: Zidisha is the first direct person-to-person microlending service that focuses on entrepreneurs and job creation. Its name” comes from the Swahili word meaning “grow.” Unlike Kiva, Zidisha does not loan through financial institutions but facilitates direct lending between people. Zidisha’s loans total more than $16 million and have financed more than 240,000 projects.
  3. Building Resources Across Communities: Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC) is the largest non-governmental development organization in the world in terms of number of employees. Hasan founded BRAC in 1972 and it employs more than 120,000 people in 11 countries. BRAC has a microfinance program, primarily in Bangladesh, which has loaned to 5.6 million borrowers, 87 percent of whom are women. Unlike Kiva and Zidisha, which operate person-to-person lending services, BRAC distributes loans to lenders on its own using donations and other funds. BRAC also does work unrelated to microfinance, investing in schools and in water, hygiene and sanitation services.
  4. Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI): Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI) began issuing loans in 2008 and trains local women in managing loan hubs. WMI has loaned more than $4.5 million to rural women in amounts of $100 to $250 at an interest rate of 10 percent. According to WMI, 99 percent of its borrowers report doubling their income within six months of being involved in the program. WMI reports a 98 percent repayment rate.

The efficacy of microlending in pulling people out of poverty is up for debate, but some cases have shown promising results. A microfinance program in Uzbekistan resulted in 71 percent of participants reporting an increase in food intake quality. One study showed that when a microfinance program was put in place, there was an 18 percent decline in extreme poverty. While different studies report differing results, microlending organizations like Kiva, Zidisha, BRAC and WMI have certainly been a success.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Flickr

GreenFingers Mobile Aids in Food Insecurity
Agriculture is at the center of many African families. With over 70 percent of African families depending on agriculture as their main source of income, 90 percent of them live on less than $1 to $2 a day. GreenFingers Mobile aids the food insecure to attempt to change that. This app provides small and emerging South African farmers access to the growing market to help reduce poverty and make Africa food secure.

How GreenFingers Mobile Works

Initially piloted in 2013, GreenFingers Mobile did not fully establish until 2015. Prior to 2018, the mobile app served three countries and assisted more than 5,000 smallholder farmers. Today, it serves more than 8,700 farmers across three countries. The goal of the app is to provide small farmers with access to the agriculture market. GreenFingers Mobile aids the food insecure by replacing the inefficient pen and paper system and supplying farmers with real-time data. Instead, it provides farmers with a variety of services that range from improving the yield of their harvest to a virtual profile to build their credibility within the market.

In addition to informing farmers of the wellbeing of their fields, GreenFingers Mobile also aids the food insecure by registering over 12,500 farmers in training courses. These training courses provide farmers with knowledge of the agricultural market and ways to improve the yield of their cash crops. According to the World Bank, in 2016, nearly one out of nine people living in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia suffered from chronic hunger. That same year, 27.4 percent of Africa’s population suffered food insecurity. With food insecurity on the rise, the app presents many small African farmers with the ability to fight back. Through GreenFingers’ efforts to ensure food security in growing communities, it simultaneously reduces poverty. With the threat of hunger erased, communities and countries will become self-sustaining.

GreenFingers Mobile’s Funding and Investors

In 2018, GreenFingers Mobile was a finalist in Google’s Impact Challenge and received $125,000 in funding. That same year, Kiva, an international nonprofit organization with the mission to expand financial services to developing countries, approved a $15,000 loan for the company. Many expect the app to grow the sub-Saharan agricultural market to five times its current size in 2030, going from $200 billion to $1 trillion. Within the next two years, GreenFingers Mobile hopes to have more than 30,000 farmers utilizing the app. In May 2019, GreenFingers Mobile launched the GFM Tree Tracking module, which will provide the farmers with over a million trees.

Among many of the app’s investors is the Hivos Food & Lifestyle Fund, which Hivos provides. Hivos is an organization that focuses on “social change, digital activism and rural innovations in the sectors of sustainable food systems, renewable energy and governance,” as the GreenFingers Mobile website says. Natalie Miller, GreenFingers Mobile CEO, says the fund provided several cycles of seeds and helped lower the entry barrier, which assisted the app in cutting prices by two-thirds.

With nearly 60,000 commercial transactions completed, GreenFingers Mobile continues to grow. It is paving the way for technological innovation in Africa. Though it will take time for Africa to see an effect on its food security, GreenFingers Mobile is on its way to improving the lives of those in poverty.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

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 Nonprofits
The 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 DifferenceCharities 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