Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Different Seasonal Greeting

I will not be sending you a festive greeting in the form of card or gift. This is not because I am in any way against the spirit of Christmas, I just prefer to use the money in a more effective manner and so bring tangible ‘cheer’ to those whose lives are blighted by abject poverty and fear. My donation as always will go to KIVA an NGO that offers people the chance to become micro-lenders for as little as 25euros/pounds/ etc to men and women living in developing countries.

Here is how it works. A lender goes to the Kiva website which displays photos of pre screened people and tells you what they need the money for and how much they require. The lenders make a choice and pay by credit card. Kiva then transfers the money to a local partner, which then makes the loan to the business. During the period of the loan, the partner provides updates to the lender on the businesses progress and collects repayment, which the lender can withdraw from Kiva or re-loan.

An example of how successful Kiva has been is demonstrated by the experience of Nicholas Kristof the New York Times columnist. He loaned $25 to a TV repair shop owner and bakery in Afghanistan. The baker had received $425 from a total of seven American lenders, enough to open a second bakery. The TV repairman had also opened a second shop. Between them they had created six new jobs and, in the process, increased the chances that Afghanistan can succeed in building a moderate Muslim democracy in the face of the Taliban’s efforts to undo it. Kirstof had his investment returned and he then reinvested in a different project.

I have also invested over the past five years via Kiva in small family businesses related to tourism where the amount of money has been infinitesimal and yet to them it is tremendous and the 50 -100 euro investment has gone on to make a huge difference to a families fortunes, and yes, in all those years I have never failed to get my original investment returned to me.

Savings in very poor countries are impossible to mount, and the flow of International money into these countries is fast drying up. The disbursement of small amounts to the worlds specific poor for specific purpose is one answer, loans made by concerned people in the west in what some call ‘many to many’ lending. In the past four years Kiva is lending around $50 million annually and defaults are as good as unknown.

This Christmas I hope you will join me and the many other thousands of people who have helped ‘make a difference’ in a families life -not just for Christmas – for life.

My very best wishes to you and all your loved ones and may you have a very happy Christmas. Petros Mavros.