26 May 2012

How My Cousin Helped

Many of you will have heard the story of my father's 'Do Good Money'. This was money he set aside and periodically loaned to a hard-working person in need of help. When Dad passed away, my sisters and I decided to continue his tradition.

On the user-friendly Web site of Kiva, a non-profit organisation working with microfinance institutions around the world, we choose a borrower to support with a loan of just $25. Similar loans by other lenders are combined until the required total is reached. In this way we enable people without access to traditional banks to expand their businesses, support and educate their children, save for the future and raise themselves out of poverty. My sisters and I have now made over 40 loans. As the money is repaid (often in monthly instalments) we could withdraw it, but we always lend it to someone else. A small sum that is loaned over and over again helps more people than a one-time donation.

Some of my family and friends do not like transferring money via the Internet. To avoid that problem, one of my cousins posted me a cheque for $100 and asked me to make loans on her behalf. I chose these four borrowers:

1.  Gulchehra (Tajikistan)

Gulchehra has four children, and her husband is a taxi driver in the Russian Federation. Since 2004 Gulchehra has been making gold embroidered capes for brides. She does this at home and sells the capes at a market. She asked for a loan to repair her house, specifically to buy plastic windows, doors and fibreboard. (This made me realise how lucky I am to have a house with windows!)

2.  Bordados Mazahuas group (Mexico)

The group consists of three women and one man who business is agriculture. They needed a loan to buy chickens and sheep. One of the women, Doña Soledad, is a 59-year-old widow whose profits are used to buy food, shoes and clothing for herself and her daughter. The other members of the group are Olivia and Juliana who raise chickens and Don Mario who has sheep.

3.  Mujeres Emprendedoras group (Paraguay)

This group has 22 members, all women. One member of the group, Alana, applied for a loan to invest in her tailoring business. She wanted to buy more fabric, buttons, glue, zippers and other materials so she could fill her current orders.

4.  Mirador De Yahuarcocha group (Ecuador)

This group consists of five entrepreneurial women with the same goal, which is to move forward with their business and improve their quality of life. The group's president, Paola, lives with her parents. She and her co-workers make shirts of Indian fabric. Her loan was used to buy an industrial sewing machine to increase productivity. Paola dreams of having a large workshop and employing people who need a job.

You can help!

At any given time there are thousands of individuals and groups listed on Kiva. Please join me in making a difference through small loans (not handouts). You can choose a borrower from Kiva's Web site - or if you don't want to make payments via the Internet, follow my cousin's example and send me a cheque for any amount you chose (it can be less than $25) and ask me to put it towards a loan on your behalf. When I do so, I will send you a link to the borrower's profile so you can follow their progress.
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