As we rev into full gear this holiday season, a large number of you are likely planning on making some form of charitable contribution this year.
While there are a number of deserving local organizations which are always accepting donations (FaithWorks, the Community Food Pantry, United Way, etc), I would like to bring to your attention another worthy organization.
Kiva, an non-governmental organization which facilitates the disbursement of small business loans to the working poor all over the developing world, is achieving great things in the Third World, one small loan at a time.
On Wednesday I loaned $25 to a man named Dilshod Dadaboev living in Tajikistan through Kiva. The father of three, he has requested a $1,200 loan to expand his housewares business. The sole bread winner in his family he also raises crops and sells cattle to make ends meet. So far he has been loaned $150 from small-time lenders such as myself.
My loan was disbursed to Dilshod through one of Kiva's microfinance partners - MLF MicroInvest Tajikistan. The repayment period for Dilshod's loan is six to twelve months. What I like about Kiva is that it provides its lenders with periodic updates in the form of journal entries on how the lendee is using his/her loan to better their lives. I also appreciate Kiva's emphasis on transparency - letting me, the lender, know how my money is spent.
Microfinance is a growing trend in the disbursement of funds from wealthy nations to citizens of the Third World. According to the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, microfinance is the supply of loans, savings, pensions, insurance and money transfer services to the poor.
Microfinance fills a need not met by the formal financial sector which primarily serves the middle and upper classes. Microfinance loans also have a high rate of repayment. Microfinance is not a hand-out; it is a hand-up.
NGOs and other non-traditional financial institutions have blazed the trail in this area. Through their lending to small time entrepreneurs such as Dilshod and Jane Wamwere, a 28-year-old single mother of two living in Kenya who is seeking a $1,100 loan through Kiva to expand her produce business, Kiva provides a badly needed service in the developing world. Parents like Dilshod and Jane plan to use the proceeds from their business to pay for their children's schooling and healthcare and ensure that they are well-fed.
While there is a significant danger in oversimplifying the many problems plaguing the developing world - disease, intermittent warfare, famine, drought, corrupt leaders, etc. - I believe microfinance is one of the best tools we have to bring about positive change in the Third World by encourageing the working poor to better their lives.
To learn more or to make a loan to one of Kiva's many small business owners, visit ww.kiva.org.
A number of you will likely make donations to a faith-based organization this year. Before you give, I would recommend visiting www.ministrywatch.org, a Christian Evangelical online database with profiles on over 400 of the largest church ministries in the U.S.
Ministry Watch encourages "responsible giving" by providing donors with a five star rating system based on financial efficiency and transparency. The organizations also highlights "shining star" ministries such as the Children's Hunger Fund.
Whether you give a lot or a little this year, I encourage you to give to trusted organizations with a record of transparency and low overhead.
Rachel Oswald is a staff writer for The Covington News. She can be reached at email@example.com.