One of the most rewarding things about travel can be giving back in the communities you visit. But how can you give back when you’re not traveling?
Kiva, a non-profit organization, digitally connects people like you and I to underdeveloped countries across the globe to help give back even from afar. Kiva is a different kind of giving. Through personal loans, not donations which can often be mismanaged, you can help local entrepreneurs to plant the seed that will help them grow their new business.
I met a group of working women who are taking control of their own destiny and changing the way they live.
Rugiatu and three other entrepreneurs run the local food market in Magburaka, Sierra Leone, a town of only 40,000 people. They founded the market where they sell oil and rice – their entrepreneurship has become the main source of income for their families.
How can two everyday foods of oil and rice, so easily accessible to you and I, do so much good for people like Rugiatu?
In West Africa, palm oil is one of the most essential nutrients needed to make food healthy enough for consumption. The challenges of disease and malnutrition means palm oil is high in demand here. Women cook with it daily to provide nutritional meals for their families, but businesses also make their living from selling oil as a cash or export crop. In peak seasons palm oil sells cheaply but in low demand seasons, businesswomen like Rugiatu can re-market it at four times the purchase price. Because of its affordability and versatility, she also sells uncooked rice, another staple of the African diet and the region’s popular cassava dishes.
In Sierra Leone, 70% of the population live below the poverty line, life expectancy is only at 56 and health care is almost non-existent but Rugiatu is trying to make life better in her village. By having the means to buy gallons of oil and bags of rice, she is able to grow her business, feed her family, and nourish an entire community of other families. All with a $25 loan, continents away.
I really like the idea of a Kiva loan because it empowers communities to be independent and self-sufficient. When you lend, you can check out the profile of a borrower you want to help, learn about who they are, where they live, and how your loan can have a direct impact. Borrowers can build homes for families or schools for kids to learn. They can buy goods to re-sell in their family business or invest in simple things like farming tools to harvest easier. The borrowers repay the loan so that lenders (you!) can help other communities who need it.
Kiva is a different kind of charity that helps alleviate poverty and empower communities, even when you’re miles away.