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California Group Loans Money to People in 83 Countries

26 September, 2016

Genaro lives in a village in Peru. He is hoping to raise $1,300.

Genaro says he needs the money to grow more coffee trees. He sells coffee seeds, known as beans, to support himself and his two children.

Mrs. Phuc lives in Vietnam. She is hoping for a $2,000 loan to raise pigs so she can earn more money for her family.

And in Ghana, a young man named Richard is looking for $1,275 to pay his college tuition and buy books to take classes.

These are just three of the small loans that Kiva, a group in California, is seeking to finance through donations. Kiva only lists the first names of people requesting loans.

Premal Shah, 40, helped start Kiva 10 years ago. He is now the charitable group's president.

Shah said Kiva makes giving simple. People are not asked to solve big problems like climate change, poverty, or war, he said.

Instead, they are asked to help individual people make their lives and their families' lives better.

The Human Connection Has Appeal

"There is a basic human connection," he said. "People often don't feel they can do very much to produce sustainable change. But here they can make a big change, helping people and their families."

Premal Shah
Premal Shah

A Kiva loan can help someone who cannot get a loan from a bank develop a business or go to college. But it also helps others, Shah said. People who earn more money will spend more money in their communities, and maybe even give jobs to neighbors.

In Ghana, 25-year-old Sarah Ayi-Mensah said she is trying to earn enough money to support herself and her family. She sells oils, gifts and other things at a small store.

Ayi-Mensah has received two $400 loans from Kiva to help her add products to sell to customers. She has already paid off the first loan and is working to repay the second.

"It has been a big help," she told VOA from Ghana.

Ayi-Mensah is not married and does not have children. But she said she is now able to provide more help to her extended family.

"I'm hoping I will be able to sell even more in the future," Ayi-Mensah said. But she added that the poverty in her village means many people do not have enough money to spend much at her store or other businesses.

$25 Is the Minimum Donation

Here is how Kiva works:

On the charity's website, hundreds of requests for loans are listed by individuals who state what they will do with the money. People wanting to donate can narrow down the requests by country or area. Or they can choose what they want their money to do -- whether it be to help someone pay for school, or expand a business or farm.

People who decide they want to help can do so on the internet. The minimum donation, or loan, is $25.

An individual donation is added to others to produce the loan amount requested. So, if someone asks for a $400 loan, the amount could be funded by 16 $25 donations.

Last week, a Kiva donor received an email saying he received repayments of $5.58 on three loans. Maria Eugenia, for example, repaid 94 cents of her $25 loan so she could add new products to her store in Colombia.

When each $25 is returned, the donor can find another person to help, or get his or her money returned.

Success Stories

There have been lots of success stories, said Kiva president Premal Shah.

One of them is Lindiwe, 22, of Zimbabwe.

She received a $500 loan and business training from Camfed, a Kiva partner. That helped her open up three businesses -- raising chickens, a store selling home-made drinks and another store selling household products.

All this has given her a feeling of independence, Lindiwe said. "If I want to help someone who is in need, I can just take my money and help," she added.

Helping Produce More Banana Bread

Chancey Lindsey-Peake used a $2,000 Kiva loan to expand a banana bread business in the southeastern American state of South Carolina.

"The loan got me back on my feet," she said.

Her mistake was agreeing to pay the loan back too quickly, Lindsey-Peake told VOA. "My timing wasn't good," she said.

She took out the loan and started repaying it in October of 2012, just as the Greenville Farmers Market was closing for the winter. She "sold lots of banana bread" at the farmers market.

"But I'm doing well now," Lindsey-Peake said. "My head is above water. I'm making a little profit, and I now I can pay myself."

By above water, Lindsey-Peake meant she is no longer losing money on her business. What has kept her going is a belief in her banana bread, a belief backed up by happy customers.

"My banana bread is excellent," she said.

Kiva is also moving forward. After difficult times during the 2008 recession, Kiva brought in $150 million in loan funding over the past year, Premal Shah said. That is a record.

Over its 10 years, the charity has raised $880 million from 1.5 million people. It has provided loans to over 2 million people in 83 countries. Over 80 percent of the money went to women.

The website Charity Navigator rates charities. It said that Kiva ranks 97 out of a possible high score of 100. Kiva spends over 81 percent of its money on its programs and services, the site said.

I'm Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on 51VOA.COM. If you had the money, who would you like to help? If you could get a loan what would you use it for?


Words in This Story

tuition - n. money that is paid to a school for the right to study there

sustainable - adj. able to last or continue for a long time

customer - n. someone who buys goods or services from a business

charitable adj. of or related to helping people who are poor or sick

basic – adj. forming or relating to the most important part of something

minimum - adj. of or related to the smallest possible amount