Although Kiva has been around since 2005, I can't remember when or how I first heard about it, but I do know I was instantly inspired.
The brain child of a couple of young American computer whizzes, Kiva's flagship is a state-of-the-art web-site
that links lenders from around the world with thousands of borrowers in poorer places.
I started out making a small investment. I might even have contributed as little as $100. But even if that was the case, with the standard lending unit of $25, I would have been able to help finance loans to 4 separate borrowers in places as far apart as Mali and Turkestan.
Since then, whenever Kiva contacts me to let me know that a loan has been repaid, I simply redirect the money to someone else. And occasionally when I am flush, I add another small amount to my original 'pot'. Even though my capital investment is still only in the hundreds, I was delighted to notice this morning that I have now helped finance 32 loans.
For all that time lending for me has been a solitary pleasure. But that all changed on Monday.
That's when I decided to attend Kiva's 7th birthday party, which was celebrated around the world, and in Melbourne at the Loop Bar in the CBD.
|Me, Heather and Nicola|
We were greeted on arrival at Loop by Heather (above), a self-confessed 'Kiva addict', and a volunteer for the evening.
I was astonished to learn that Heather has used some of her retirement funds to help finance over 1400 loans. With a repayment rate of 98.97%, she feels her investment is in safe hands.
Heather also drew my attention to the fact that you can easily join a team or teams of borrowers, which can make the whole experience no longer solitary and a lot more fun.
There are teams with thousands of members and some with only two. I particularly liked the sound of Team Nerdfighters, who loan 'because we aim to decrease world suck', and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. There are many national groupings and I was happy to hear that Team Australia, with its 4472 members is right up there, having contributed more that 2 millions dollars in 86,000 loans.
|Kiva members and prospective new investors at the 7th Birthday party|
We had a great time at Loop, talking to other Kiva fans and listening to Nicola (above top), the evening's speaker, who enlightened me even further about the web-site. For the first time I realised that you can choose to lend to people with particular 'attributes', for example to workers trying to get by in conflict zones or my personal favourite - those who are attempting to stay on the land and resist the drift to the cities.
So this morning as I lent $25 to Yashar in Azerbaijan to buy sheep and another $25 to Juan Santos in El Salvador for five sacks of compost, I felt really grateful to Kiva for providing me with the opportunity to assist them.
Reading about the lives of these two men from very different parts of the world, I was struck much more by the similarities between them and me, than by the differences. Just like me, they both want to care for their families, to have enough money and to do work they enjoy. So thank you, Kiva, for connecting me to them, as well as to the other lenders in my new team.
And happy birthday. May you have many more!