As a small business owner, I am well aware of how important it is to have support for success; personal as well as professional. Here in North America, we are incredibly blessed and fortunate to have access to public agencies, government organizations, and financial assistance programs that help individuals and families survive and thrive in difficult times. But in some not-so-distant lands this is not the case at all. Those individuals and small groups who are brave enough to sacrifice and take risks to start businesses to better their circumstances are often thwarted in their success by lack of access to the funds and support necessary to get their business off the ground. This is where organizations like KIVA.org step in make a difference, one micro-loan at a time.
KIVA members pledge loan money, as individuals or in groups, which enables KIVA's Field Partners to extend financial support to entrepreneurs in impoverished nations where the only ingredient missing for business success may be a bit of financial backing. And we are not talking big money, either. A total loan for as little as $250 (less than the cost of an iPhone in North America) can be enough to vault an entrepreneur in Mali, the Dominican Republic, or Vietnam out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. With a pledge of as little as $25, a KIVA member can add their money to a pool of funds that will be dispersed to an entrepreneur once their target loan amount is reached.
But the real magic of this system is that the money being donated is loaned, not given, to the entrepreneur on the receiving end. There is a cycle of fiscal accountability and transparency built into the system that encourages success for everyone involved. And once the loan amount has been repaid, the KIVA member is free to loan the money out again. Talk about a win/win!
If only we had a similar system in Canada...