Was Kiva ever meant to be a Microfinance Fund?
I wonder if Jessica and Matt Flannery, Kiva co-founders, meant to create a Microfinance Fund to help local entrepreneurs in developing countries have money to grow or help their business. When I decided to join Kiva as a Kiva fellow I told my friends I was going to work for a Microfinance Fund. Last week I understood I was completely wrong. Kiva is a global community, not a microfinance fund based on small individual lending.
The other Friday, June 6th 08, I posted a journal about a client I visited the previous day. Nothing special, that’s one of my main tasks here. However, the client, a disable woman, mentioned that her wheelchair was broken and that she hasn’t been to Church in almost 2 months, and therefore was considering using a next loan to buy a wheelchair. I wrote that. The following morning I read a comment on the journal written by a Kiva Friend saying that KivaFriends would be willing to donate a new wheelchair to Regina Jose (picture below). The next day Jill, the KivaFriend, created a new thread at KivaFriends and on Monday, June 9th, when I opened Kivafriends.org for the first time in my life I saw that more than 300 people had seen Jill’s message and there were around 30 replies. People around the world were committed to give Regina Jose a new wheelchair, and then, for the first time, I realized I was working for a community, not for a Microfinance Fund. Now this message board has been seen for more than 900 people!!
For those not familiar with KivaFriends, it is a parallel non-profit organization that was created by very committed Kiva lenders, with the intent of helping further Kiva clients and Kiva itself. I am quite impressed by the power of Internet and global instant communication. Within 10 days the wheelchair was chosen and will be acquired next week, with delivery scheduled for the following week, hopefully in time for me to deliver the chair (representing KivaFriends) and take a few pictures on the occasion.
I am thrilled to see so many good people in the world wanting to help a client in a very poor neighborhood in the outskirt of Mozambican’s capital city Maputo. So many people have given advises and tried to help! A few even joined KivaFriends for the first time to help with donation!
If Jessica and Matt wanted a microfinance fund, they have it. Kiva is a fast growing fund on its way to be one of the largest microfinance funds in the world. Congratulations for that. But I believe they need a long applause for the community of good people they put together for the cause – helping alleviate poverty and promote economic development.
I’ll keep you posted on Regina’s wheelchair story!