Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Today's Thanksgiving, the holiday of giving thanks. Even with all the crazy stuff going on around the world, I've still got a lot to be thankful for - right now, it's raining, and I love the rain. I want to say Thank You to all my friends out there, for all you've done for me over the years.

Along with Thanksgiving, there's another "holiday" called Black Friday. This is a commercial event/tradition of sales kicking off the holiday shopping season, so named because it's anecdotally the day where many companies turn a profit - being "in the black" as it were. I expect Black Friday will not be quite as profitable this year, as many people are feeling the pinch of an economic crisis.

So I have a suggestion.

This weekend, as you consider all you have to be thankful for, visit the Kiva website. Here's a blurb from their homepage.

What is Kiva? Kiva lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world - empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.

It works like this. Kiva partners with local micro-lenders, typically offering loans of less than $1000. These lenders identify people in their communities who will use this money to support themselves. The loans are typically repaid over a few months, with repayments starting after just 30 days. The money might be used to buy wheat to make bread, or repair a car to deliver goods. A small amount of money can make a big difference in the ability of many less fortunate people to support themselves.

Here's where you come in.

From the Kiva site, you can read the opportunities to help, and choose any you would like (they are all worthwhile). Contribute a small amount, typically $25, and when the full total required has been collected, the money is loaned directly to the individual or group of entrepreneurs. As the money is repaid, it goes right back into your Kiva account. You can then either take your money back, or reinvest it in another entrepreneur.

The only cost to you is that there is no interest repaid, and if the loans are faulted on, then you will only get a portion of your investment back - proportional to how much money was collected. The risk levels for each investment are clearly marked, but most loans are repaid in full, as the field partners work closely with the entrepreneurs.

So, if you're thankful this holiday season, consider investing in your fellow human being. These are hard working people who just need a little nudge to materially improve their own conditions.

Thanks to Rand for turning me on to Kiva.