Pin-pointing the first time I was told that “the purpose of life is to pull people up rather than to hold them under” is a difficult one, but if I was pushed to pass on one piece of advice to another, that would be it. While this is, more or less, a restatement that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, with the implication that if you are one of the first to reach the new height then you (to risk of further straining the metaphor) help others to climb and to see in to the distance with you, it doesn’t necessarily make it redundant.
I appreciate that this is a fairly pretentious way to frame the sentiment that we should be good to each other, and never purposefully inhibit those that have done us no harm. However – and even the most ardent adherers to doctrine must agree – that “the game” at present is framed towards taking from others to further yourself, with the aim to amass greater and greater quantities of wealth, rather than collectively pushing forward with the interests of all.
Oh how simple it all sounds…
For me, charity has always seemed to be a partial solution to this problem (in fact it’s probably one of the better ways we’ll ever have), and exactly a year ago today, after a few months consideration, I decided to do something positive and created an account on Kiva.
Kiva is a micro-credit service facilitated by users lending money to entrepreneurs and students in 73 countries via a network of field partners. People sign up to Kiva, add funds via a Paypal account, and then use these funds to facilitate loans in multiples of $25 (up to a maximum of $500) to any available loan listed here. Once a loan is made, and fully funded, the money will be started being paid back – exactly like a typical loan – but while the field-partners charge interest on the loans that are made, neither Kiva or its users receive any additional payments (a point must be made here, if I were to put the money in to a flexible savings account, I would be earning a rate of interest probably not much better than 0%).
This means that for every $25 I deposit in to my Kiva account, the maximum I will ever receive back (bar extremely unlikely positive shifts in the exchange rate) is that ‘same’ $25, and much like any typical loan the lenders can miss payments or under pay (delinquency), or even over pay, or simply never pay the money back (default).
In the past 12 months these are my headline stats:
- Total Loans = 58
- Total Deposits = $829 (as to why this isn’t a multiple of $25 I’m not sure)
- Total Lent = $1600
- Total Repaid = $751.82
- Number of Fully Repaid Loans = 10
- Total Value of Fully Repaid Loans = $375
- Total Outstanding = $797.18
- Total Amount Lost = $1.00
- Amount Lost due to Default = $0
- Amount Lost due to Exchange Rate Changes = $1
- Countries = 45 / 73
- Total Refunded and Expired = $50 (this occurs when a loan is not fully funded within the time limit)
- Number of Loans Delinquent = 5
- Amount In Arrears = $8.96
- Delinquency Rate = 1.12% (arrears / total outstanding)
So far this means that I’ve made loans to numerous people, with virtually all having a perfect repayment record. This spans from watermelon farmers in Ukraine, to a taxi driver in Azerbaijan, Child Care in Iraq and a fruit and veg stall in Timor-Leste. It needs to be mentioned that delinquency rates are actually quite volatile, and typically the lenders will correct these within 1 month, indeed only 1 of the 5 currently delinquent loans has been delinquent before, and this gives me a high confidence that these loans will correct themselves over the next 12 months and/or the end of the specific loan period. To give context, in January ’14 I am expecting repayment on 40 loans ($100.23), with 43 in February ($99.83) and another 43 in March ($97.29) with the vast majority paying back on time (if not slightly sooner). This ~$300 can be immediately relent and used to fund up to 12 new loans, and this experience over the last 12 months has given me the feeling that – while I am admittedly not making any money – I’m not losing any, and as I can withdraw the funds whenever I wish, or choose to re-lend them, I haven’t felt that I’m being “cheated” at all.
But when it comes to choosing loans, and as it is ultimately my money, I have two rules I stick by:
- A 50/50 overall gender-split on loans.
- All Field Partners must be secular in nature.
As it happens, neither of these two rules are hard to accomplish using the extensive options available as part of the built-in search functionality, and also those materials provided by the “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious” Lending Team who’s goal is to promote secular values (by helping loans from secular Field Partners, especially in theocratic countries) and show that “we care about the suffering of human beings”. This team alone has so far made over $13.5 million of loans since August 2008, making them the single largest loaning team on Kiva – an impressive achievement in anyone’s books.
If you’ve made it this far, and are possibly interested in “having a play” with Kiva, and seeing just what you can do, it’s simply and all you need to do is click here…
and Sign Up – even better, if you do, both you and me will get $25 of free loan credit to go towards funding a loan.
Go on – do something different in 2014.