D&C 58:27-28 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
The concept of microcredit was introduced to me many years ago when I was in college. For some reason, I’d seen a flyer in the BYU Kennedy Center (not a normal hangout for me) about a guest speaker, who had come one evening to talk about microcredit. I’ve long since forgotten why I went to that lecture – well written flyer? suggested by a friend or professor? – but I went and was introduced to the concept, which was entirely new to me.
What is microcredit?
“Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to those in poverty designed to spur entrepreneurship. These individuals lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit. … Microcredit is a financial innovation that is generally considered to have originated with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. In that country, it has successfully enabled extremely impoverished people to engage in self-employment projects that allow them to generate an income and, in many cases, begin to build wealth and exit poverty.” [source]
I found microcredit fascinating when I went to that sparsely attended evening lecture. The speaker – his identity long since lost to me Ahrun Ghandi of the Grameen Bank – spoke of the good it had done in its limited use to that point, and of how much good it could do. I wanted to help, but didn’t know how. This was a year or two pre-internet (a world I can no longer grok), so it’s not like I could just look it up on Google. So I continued on with my life.
Last year, FMH blogged about kiva.org, and I remembered that lecture. I signed up immediately and have been an active participant ever since. I hope I have helped some people. When you loan an amount (as small as $25, with multiple people contributing to one loan), it is eventually paid back into your account. You can either withdraw it or, as most people seem to do, loan that amount back to someone else.
One interesting thing that Kiva has for lenders is lending teams. It’s an entirely optional component if you chose to loan via Kiva, but it can serve as a way to encourage members of the team to more fully participate in the lending process. The team I ultimately settled on was Kiva Mormons. It’s a relatively large group (272, as I type this). On the first of each month, the Kiva Mormons group has an “everyone lend day”, where they encourage everyone to loan on that day. I sometimes loan on that day and sometimes not. Sometimes I loan on a different day. Sometimes I don’t loan for a few months. How much you loan or with what frequency is entirely up to you. When you make a loan, you can count it with a group you have joined, and though there is no benefit to anyone in the group to have a loan counted other than a rising number on a screen, seeing that number rise can also be motivational.
So if you’re looking for something good to do, Kiva is a good option. I participate as a lone person. Some people participate as a family, with their children selecting the next person they will loan to (you can read short profiles from recipients all over the world, seeing what they have planned for their loan). Some people participate as a Relief Society group. I’m sure there are other ways. And if you decide to participate, feel free to join the Kiva Mormons group. (FMH also keeps a Kiva widget on their sidebar, if you’d like to join their group.)
To learn more about kiva.org, see their About page.