When I applied to college many years ago, I was surprised to learn that I was entitled to financial assistance below our family’s income put us “below the poverty line.” I had no idea we were poor. We had plenty to eat, a safe place to live, and lots and lots of love.
Millions of people around the world live in poverty, and they don’t have plenty to eat and a safe place to live. What is considered poor in our affluent country (still affluent compared to much of the world despite our current financial crisis) would be considered fabulously wealthy by people living in harsh and unrelenting poverty in third-world countries.
It’s easy to think the problem is so huge there’s nothing we can do. We can’t feed millions of hungry people, but we can improve the lives of one impoverished person or a small group of poor people. Volunteer at your local food pantry. Donate to an international relief agency. Participate in charitable activities of your church or organization. Make a microloan through Kiva.org.
Kiva allows individuals to make microloans to entrepeneurs around the world. You can loan money in increments of $25 to a specific entrepreneur profiled on the Kiva Web site. Your money is pooled with the money from other lenders and distributed to the entrepreneur through a field partner—a microfinance institution that handles the loan. The receipients of loans probably wouldn’t qualify for loans through regular financial institutions, and when you accept the Web site’s terms, you accept the risk that the loan may not be paid back. But the field partner for the loan I made has worked with more than 4000 entrepreneurs and has a default rate of 0%. I’ll wager that’s a lot better than most commercial banks experience!
When your loan is repaid, you can keep the money or make a loan to another entrepreneur. An investment as small as $25 could be loaned over and over again to make a difference in the lives of a number of individuals, their families, and their communities.
Maybe I can’t eliminate global poverty … but I can help one person become self-sufficient.
I am only one, but I am one. I can not do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I can not do interfere with what I can do. ~ Edward E. Hale