Saturday, August 8, 2009

Make a Loan - Change a Life

Last night I ran across an incredible website called Kiva. Kiva works with microcredit organizations around the world to provide small loans to poor people who want to start or improve their businesses. Kiva's mission is to connect people who are willing to loan $25.00 to a person who needs a small loan, for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

You can go to Kiva's website and lend to someone across the globe who needs a loan for their business - like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent - and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is doing.

The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays off their loan you get your money back - and Kiva's loans are managed by local microfinance institutions who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.

I went through and found a group of women in Uganda Africa who had applied for a group loan of $825.00. Each woman in the Tumwebaze B Group will receive a loan of $103 for a 12 month term. Each month they pool funds to make a loan payment, and each of them is responsible for helping the others repay their part of the loan. I love this picture. Each woman holds her application and tries very hard to look appropriately serious and trustworthy. I hope they dance with joy when their loan money is distributed.

Jane Mbasagi is the leader of the group. She operates a grocery store selling sweet bananas, tomatoes, cabbages, and other produce. She is 45 years old and has eight children, four of whom are going to school. She is also taking care of one sibling. She has been in business for over two years. She will use her loan to purchase grocery items to add stock to her business. She is a hardworking business woman whose dream is to educate her children.

My small loan, combined with loans from 20 or more other people have now raised the $825.00 for the group loan, which each of them will use to finance business activity. So now, Jane Mbasagi, Scovia Kavabunga, Jane Pande, Damali Namugabe, Aida Kafuko, Alice Chandia, Suzan Nanja and Sarah Nakwaga in the wee village of Kaliro, Uganda have the opportunity to use their skills and hard work to improve the lives of themselves and their families.

This is powerful. It's finally easy to actually do something about poverty. Using Kiva I know exactly who my money is loaned to and what they're using it for. And most of all, I know that I'm helping them each build a sustainable business that will provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate their family long after my loan is paid back.

There are thousands of others waiting for a chance. Please join me in changing the world - one loan at a time.

All the best!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ruth's Golden Thumb

Tony says Ruth doesn't have a "green thumb", she has a golden thumb! Her 4 x 4 garden has been spectacularly successful this summer, and the latest evidence is this green pepper which she picked this morning.

And the "gardeners" are not the only ones who enjoy our labours. I can see into the community garden from where I sit. I can't count the number of visitors who respectfully enter the space, who bend to touch a leaf, or show a tiny child a blossom, a squash, a tomato or other plant. And yes some kids have pinched a tomato or two, but maybe it's the first time they've ever popped a tomato, warm from the sun, off the vine and directly into their mouth. Maybe 10-15 years from now they will remember that little tomato and plant some of their own.

The Community Garden is about more than cabbages and pepper plants. It's as much about growing community as it is about vegetables. And since I am keenly interested in communities I see it as a bit of a social experiment. I ask the question, "Does it make this a better place to live?" and the answer must surely be yes.

You begin to create a safe and secure community when you decide that you will be a good neighbor. Like charity, building community begins at home. Building community is something we each can do, right here, right now, in this place.

Nobody is an island. We will do better, and have a better place to live, if we think of this little park by the lake as our village, and discover anew the truth that we have learned many times in history: united we stand, divided we fall, cooperation is as important as competition. Anything and everything we do to make this a better place to live helps us all, and helping us all is what community is about.