Yesterday, I introduced my students to Kiva. Well, actually, a friend of mine, Chris Harbeck, who teaches grade 8 in Winnipeg, Skyped into my grade 10 classroom and introduced my students to the Kiva challenge.
Chris explained the basics of Kiva, a microfinance organization that is changing people’s lives; it connects people globally to make a difference. But I don’t believe the change is experienced only one way. And that’s the magic of Kiva.
In the past, Chris’ students have raised hundred of dollars that have been invested, and reinvested, to help change lives. And they do it one quarter at a time. The exciting thing is that the Kiva challenge soon begins again.
If you’ve never heard of microfinance, you’re not alone. Essentially, microfinance is the supply of loans, savings, and basic financial services to the poor. Banks don’t tend to lend to the poor. Consequently, the people who need to access money the most, are often least able to do so. Microloans are small amounts of money to help entrepreneurs start, or expand a business. Often these loans help people who are working hard to create a better life for themselves and their families. The repayment rate is 98.90% — exceptional!
Kiva allows people all over the world to participate in this process through their website, for as little as twenty-five dollars. This loan, combined with the loans of others, helps entrepreneurs quickly fund their entire project. Once funded, entrepreneurs slowly pay back the loan at a rate that isn’t debilitating to their financial situation. The money you lend, slowly accumulates back in your account, which you can then lend to another entrepreneur.
My students love this idea. They love the idea of making a difference in the world for as little as $25. So often we think the world’s problems are large and insurmountable. They’re not. The truth is, one entrepeneur at a time, we can make a difference. But to my students this isn’t the most powerful thing. It’s the stories.
After we Skyped with Chris, we watched the following TED talk from Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, in which she tells the story of how she came to create Kiva.
After watching this, one of my students commented, “I love this. I love how it humanizes people and treats them with dignity. They’re people who work hard and need a little bit of help. They have dreams, just like we have dreams.” They didn’t know that before. There are many myths about that poor that we need to debunk.
We have a generation of students who want to make a difference, who want to know that their lives make a difference. But they don’t want to do it from a distance. They want to know the stories. And that’s the magic of Kiva. It allows you to see who you’re helping, what they want to do to change their lives. As the money is paid back, you receive updates about the entrepreneur.
So I asked if they wanted to take on the Kiva Challenge. “Absolutely!” One of my students commented, “I’ve never been as excited about anything, as I am about this!” Literally, before my eyes, I saw the spark become a flame. Even though I’ve done this before, you never really know what your students are going to grab hold of and become deeply passionate about. But when you see it, you need to fan the flame a bit, and then get out of the way.
For the rest of the period, my students explored the Kiva site. Occasionally, excited comments would burst forth, “look at how many loans have been given!” “Look at how much money has been lent!” My students feel like they’re becoming part of something that is much, much larger than themselves, and that’s part of the appeal. It’s also simple. With Kiva, you don’t have to raise $10,000. $25.00 helps to change the world.
Thus far, we’ve created a Kiva team. We’ve taken a class photo, and we’ve hashed out a rough draft of a Kiva challenge video that we will start shooting Monday.
So what is the Kiva challenge?
Each of my students has committed to bring $1.00 a day, for 25 days. At the end of this time, each of my students will be able to invest with the entrepreneur of their choice and watch how things change.
But beyond this, they want to challenge other classrooms to do the same. $25 to help change the world. Are you game?