Image via Sara Snow.
Earlier this year, I had one of the best experiences of my life. I traveled to Kenya, Africa with a small team from the Micro-finance group, MicroPlace.
I first became fired up with the idea of micro-lending a couple of years ago when my family decided to finance a bank and numerous micro-loans in lieu of gifts to one another at the holidays. It's a beautiful schematic: your loan of a "micro" amount ($20, $200, or anything above or in between) can completely change the life of someone living in a developing country. What seems like a little to us, is a lot to them.
I was surprised to learn that more often than not, 84% of the time in fact, the borrowers are women. Here we (might) think of men as being the entrepreneurs who most often go out into the business world and forge their way. Not the case across the pond and in many developing areas around the world. Many experts believe the key to ending poverty and its resulting social problems is in empowering women.
According to the MicroPlace site, "Although many women are initially hesitant to accept loans, their self confidence soars when they realize they can run a successful business and repay their loans. They use their profits to pay for things that will enhance their family's welfare, like education, healthcare and nutritious food...making it more likely that future generations will end the cycle of poverty." Microlending allows this to happen.
Only a few months after my family decided to engage in microlending, I found myself sitting over a plate of eggs and hash browns with the General Manager of MicroPlace, Ashwini Narayanan. We were soul sisters at once, and not long afterwards we were flying high about the Atlantic Ocean on our way to visit borrowers throughout the African country of Kenya; to hear their amazing stories of how small loans from people like you and me had changed their lives, the lives of their families, and ultimately their communities.
Now, I'm hooked! And so...why would you care?
As we make our way into the giving season, many of us are looking for new ways to show our love for our family and friends. Gone are the days of tchotchke gifts, socks and sweaters. Here are the days of gifts that promote social change and environmental wellness.
MicroPlace has created a number of "gift" programs. There's a "give one, get one" gift program in which you purchase a gift certificate for any cause on the MicroPlace site and send it to someone on your gift list. And, you'll automatically get a free $20 gift certificate that you can give to someone else!
On top of that, I've launched the "Cook Up Some Change" program with MicroPlace with my very own recipe for change. Cook up something similar and your micro-loan can "serve" 1 to 100, depending on how much change you choose to cook up. One of the best things about this is that because you're loaning the money instead of donating it, you'll actually earn interest as the loan is repaid so you can continue to lend over and over; thus recycling your money and helping more and more!
This season, give the only gift that truly gives back and keeps on giving - the gift of promise, positivity, and change.