Tuesday, April 10, 2007

good tv

It's not often I watch a news program and actually feel happy at the end. Tonight Allie and I caught the tail end of Frontline/World, which is always a favorite. Fortunately, we missed the segment on the war in Afghanistan and went right into a piece on a person-to-person microloan program.

Absolutely amazing. Middle class folks in the U.S. can type their credit card number into a website and give a $100 or $500 or $50 or whatever-dollar loan to someone in Uganda or some such place. And on the other side of the ocean, people are able to buy stuff that helps them make a living, like tools and stoves. And the lenders can track the actual businesses they support. Like, you can e-mail them and stuff.

One of the lenders, who started off with something like $100, said:
There’s something about the tangibility of this compared to a straight donation. I’m helping to buy a bicycle or a chicken farm or a taxi, and I’m helping to expand something that already exists. That to me felt like -- if I don’t get my money back, great, it’s a donation. But if I do, I can reloan the money to someone else. And I can actually feel like a little Bill Gates Foundation or Rockefeller Foundation in my own way.

Allie and I were so inspired we grabbed our laptops and Googled the company. But apparently a bunch of other people got the same idea, because the website is down.

This is a good thing, I think -- the website overload, that is. Just so long as the other Googlers out there are motivated to keep trying, like Allie and I are. We're damn sure going to make a loan or two.

4 comments:

Lora said...

If you were inspired by the news story, you might also enjoy Muhammud Yunus' book, Banker to the Poor: Microlending and the Battle Against World Poverty. Yunus' work as a microlender earned him a Nobel Peace Prize.

Heidi said...

Nicholas Kristof wrote a column about the program at the end of March too, so they are probably getting a ton more traffic than they've been used to.

Not Prince Hamlet said...

My wife and I saw this piece on the Frontline/World website last November and gave, like, four people microloan gift cards from Kiva for Christmas.

It's really brilliant. One thing our gift recipients have found, though, is that the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs seeking loans on Kiva's site are now Eastern Europeans, which we've been told with some disappointment.

Is there something more "sexy" about giving a microloan to an African instead of a Ukrainian?

Michelled said...

Women for Women International is also a good organization of the same vein. http://www.womenforwomen.org You sponsor a woman (often widows from war torn countries) to help start her own business or learn a trade. The whole teach a man to fish concept...