On Lending Money to Others

Relax, this isn’t about lending money to family members, friends, or even coworkers. (Been there, done that, right?) It’s about lending money to total strangers.

Early last year, I learned about Kiva, a website through which you can lend money to entrepreneurs in the developing world. The idea behind Kiva is to empower individuals so they can lift themselves out of poverty.

This isn’t a charitable organization; you loan money with the understanding that it will be repaid. Yes, there is risk involved, but guess what? It works. Last year, I loaned money to two women and the loans were repaid in full.

Rather than take that money and use it for, say, a drop of gas or heating oil, I decided to find two new entrepreneurs. Coincidentally, they are both single-minded women.

Stalla Oseghae lives in Nigeria, where she sells women’s clothes. Isabella Pone lives in Samoa, where she operates a banana plantation while raising seven children alone. I loaned money to these women in April and already a portion of each loan has been repaid. (As people repay their loans, funds are dispersed proportionately to all their lenders.)

One of the many great things about Kiva is that you get to select the people you’d like to assist. The site features entrepreneur profiles; you can read people’s stories and select a person or two based on how their circumstances resonate with you.

And don’t worry that participation may be costly. You can loan as little as $25.

Keep in mind that in many developing countries a little goes a long way. Stalla Oseghae, the Nigerian woman, requested a total of $825 to buy more women’s clothes to sell.

Kiva provides an opportunity to help others who are willing to help themselves, and for this the site has received numerous accolades. But there are other reasons to spend time at the site and get involved in the lending process.

Kiva allows you to gain a more enlightened perspective on careers in other parts of the world. It’s inspiring and humbling to watch people strive to improve their work situations, sometimes under very difficult circumstances.

Although Kiva loans are intended to benefit the entrepreneurs who receive them, lenders too benefit greatly from participation.

Paula Santonocito
Career Editor, SingleMindedWomen.com