Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kiva & the Dignity of Donuts

O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those...who do not lend money at interest.
Psalm 15:1, 5

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers...
Mark 11:15

We envision a world where all people - even in the most remote areas of the globe - hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.

The LA Times' Patt Morrison did a wonderful interview with former PayPal Mafia member Premal Shah who helped start Kiva, a microfinance website where you (yes, you!) can loan as little as $25 to "entrepreneurs" all over the world. It is personalized so each lender (yes, you!) can see who exactly they are lending to. They are 10-month, no-interest loans so, if you lend $25 to a an aspiring dairy farmer in Bangladesh, you'll get paid back $2.50 per month, which is probably a lot better rate than some of your lazy friends who say "I'll get you back"...but never do.

Here's what Shah had to say about lending to women:

Women are oftentimes the people to whom banks would never lend. Yet studies have shown that when you help a woman, you really help a family; that when loans are made to women, the nutritional outcomes, the incidences of children going to school, tend to be higher than when you lend to men, so the social impact of lending to women, it appears, is higher.

And then the repayment rates [from] women tended to be higher. We have a 98% repayment rate, and it's because, I believe, a majority of loans go to women. I don't want to speak badly of men, but oftentimes there are problems; they can spend money on a lot of different vices. Women tend to feel much more responsible for the well-being of the household.

My wife and I just went all "post-colonial" and lent to Efua Ayibeahwe in Ghana (photo above). Efua needs a loan to buy resources to make donuts and sell them to fishermen on the coast. No doubt, after a long morning on the lake, there's nothing better than a donut in the shade. And with a little more savings from her profits, Efua will be able to help feed her husband and two children by building a full snack bar.

Our Scriptures tell us that God's got a serious problem with the interest that wealthy folks charge on loans which have historically crippled middle and lower income families who expend all their energy just to pay off debts for homes, education and businesses, but often cannot ever free themselves from the burden of pay-back. Indeed, microlending is a simple, holy practice. Kiva provides one small opportunity for all of us who want to build a world filled with dignity and opportunity for all.
Meanwhile, back at home in the States, the GOP majority House of Representatives is voting to deny power to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created to set and enforce rules on mortgages, credit cards and other consumer lending products. In other words: to protect us from the unholy entities whose wealth depends on the interest paid by middle and lower income earners. Reminder: these are the very banks and financial institutions whose risk-filled greed poisoned the economy, then got bailed out and are now back to making enormous profits while The Rest Of America loses jobs and homes or finds themselves barely surviving. Economic Justice will only come when we embrace both philanthropic giving (like Kiva) and changing the rules of the financial game (like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Like our 20th century prophet Martin Luther King said, "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."
% of population living on less than $1 per day:


  1. ...been a KIVA participant for several years. A great, well managed program. Helping people to 'fish'...

  2. Is micro financing really "restructuring" like Dr. King said, or does it just reinforce free market capitalism that is forced upon the developing world by Western countries through entities like the IMF and the World Bank?

  3. Hey Tom, I'm still curious as to what Easy Yolk means... as opposed to Yoke...

    seems like this is a relevant post as you're helping lighten someone else's real-world yoke...

  4. Coleman...microfinancing is not at all "restructuring" like Dr. King said. The Consumer Protection Agency takes one step towards restructuring, setting stricter rules for banks and financial institutions and giving it resources so that it can actually enforce them. Dr. King believed in both philanthropy and systemic justice. So do we.

    Taylor, Easy Yolk is just a fun & subversive way to spell "easy yoke" from the Gospel text. We have experienced over and over that passages like Matthew 11 are framed in terms of personal piety and inner spirituality instead of being defined by the tradition of the Hebrew prophets: socially, politically and economically. We are compelled that biblical scholarship that takes historical, social and literary criticism seriously brings the prophetic strand to light, re-imagining yolk for contemporary readers (and echoing how it would have been read originally...we offer this with all humility knowing that biblical interpretation is always contested).

  5. From my experience the best Bitcoin exchange company is YoBit.