A former youth group member from California is living out the gospel in a wonderful way. Read his blog - also linked on this site.
Here is the e-mail he sent me today - and he is NOT ASKING FOR MONEY!
It’s time for me to take my semi-regular couple of months away from Silicon Valley capitalism to go make a difference in the world - my personal form of therapy. So I’m reaching out to all my friends, family, and extended network with this email for 3 purposes:
1) To let everyone know what I’m up to. Think of it as this year’s Christmas card!
2) To tell you, with some shameless marketing, about Kiva.org - an exciting non-profit with whom I’m volunteering my summer.
3) To share with you my blog, if you wish to follow, a fascinating story of Liberia and how it’s being rebuilt after 20+ years of civil war in a way that is revolutionizing the way we think about supporting the impoverished world.
note: I'M NOT RAISING ANY MONEY! You’re so supportive, but please don’t send me a dime because I’ll send it right back!
Why Kiva? Why Liberia?
Many of those receiving this update were supporters of past efforts, especially my 2006 Colombia housing project, and some have been involved with all my projects spanning 20+ years. All these years I’ve proposed that the best way to truly impact the lives of those in the developing world is by improving their healthcare, education, and housing. While this is true, it also ignores the income-creation side of the formula. In other words, giving someone in the 3rd world a job enables them to acquire healthcare, education, and housing on their own. Until Kiva, this wasn’t possible on an individual level.
What is Kiva?
Kiva is the word’s leading non-profit peer-to-peer microfinance website. What the heck does that mean? It means you can make loans as small as $25 to individual entrepreneurs of your choosing in the developing world, all from the comfort of your computer at home. And since we’re a non-profit 100% of the loan goes as principle to the borrower. Our 97% repayment rate, better than any 1st-world banking system, allows you enjoy the experience of repayment, continuing to give the same $25 (or more) over and over again to different entrepreneurs. Think of your last vacation to Mexico, Thailand, or Kenya when you were compelled to help that hard-working small businessperson, not with a handout but with a small loan that would help them build their business.
That’s what Kiva enables you to do! Since 2006 our 530,000 lenders have funded 250,000 entrepreneurs with over $83M in loans, making Kiva the fastest growing non-profit in the USA, and personal favorites of Oprah, Clinton, Obama, and Schwarzenegger.
What Am I Doing in Liberia?
Kiva has only 40 fulltime employees worldwide, which makes you wonder how it can be in 50 countries working with 110 MicroFinance Institutes! Well that’s where I, and hundreds of other volunteers, come in. I’ll be living in Monrovia working with LEAP, our first MicroFinance Institute in Liberia, training their 10 offices around the country on the systems and processes required to be a Kiva partner. I’ll also be spending time in the field with the loan officers and entrepreneurs to better understand the impact of microfinance as a worldwide solution for a certain segment of global poverty.
Liberia is so much more than the movies Warlord and Blood Diamond! It is, quite simply, the most fascinating country I’ve visited in Africa. Although the country is home to one of the current 20 UN peacekeeping operations underway (along with Darfur, Afghanistan, etc), it’s emerging from 25 years of civil war primed to start over with a clean slate.
Liberia was “settled” by freed American Slaves in the early 1800’s and is now an interesting mix of Americo-Liberians and indigenous people who speak English, use a Liberian Dollar, and drive on the right side of the road – all unusual traits in West Africa. The country is 100% rainforest with only 10% of the country accessible by paved roads. Firestone rubber plantations and iron ore mines used to account for 25% of the GDP back in the 1950-60’s when Liberia was the fastest growing economy in Africa, but the civil war of the past 25 years quickly dropped the country to the bottom of the list of the world’s poorest countries with an annual GDP per capita of $490, just below Somalia. This country is *perfect* for a company like Kiva to enable individual entrepreneurs creating small businesses to rebuild Liberia.
Ken, Want to help?
I'm not taking donations, but please forward this to your friends/family and tell them about the great non-profit work that Kiva is doing! And if you'd like to join Kiva (free), along with half a million other lenders worldwide, please send me an email and I'll send you a personal invite!
Please note that a complete lack of infrastructure means not much works here. Electricity is only for those who can afford generators, internet is by sat-phone connections only (which rarely seem to work), and there are no ATM’s or credit cards. That my “connectability” is limited is an understatement, but you can follow my progress on any of the mediums below in addition to the 3-4 email updates I’ll send over the next 2 months.
See My Blog
Follow Me on Twitter
My Facebook Page