Volunteering for Kiva.org - A Major Change of Pace!

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Arriving at the Friendship Bridge Office in Panajachel
Arriving at the Friendship Bridge Office in Panajachel (View on flickr)
One of the goals of our trip (and one reason we are taking 3 years instead of the more normal 18 months) is that we want to be able to volunteer and study along the way. Well, now is the time for our first volunteer stint! We are so excited to be able to volunteer for Kiva.org here in Guatemala.

As we were riding through Mexico, we were really impacted by the poverty we saw, and became tremendously interested in the concept of microfinance, the practice of offering small loans ($100-$1000, usually), without requiring collateral, to tiny businesses. It turns out that last year's Nobel Peace Price winner, Mohammed Yunus, is the originator of the concept, and his book "Banker to the Poor" is tremendously inspiring. What they did with tiny, collateral-free loans in Bangladesh is the most hopeful story about alleviating poverty that I've ever heard in my life.

After hearing about microfinance, we heard about the newish website Kiva.org, which is extending the idea by another level. It allows lenders in the rich part of the world to make small loans (almost) directly to tiny businesses in the more resource-challenged parts of the world, using nothing but a credit card. It's a wonderful new source of capital for the developing world's tiny businesses.

Anyway, we've been accepted as "Kiva Fellows", and will be helping the people of Friendship Bridge to put their clients on the Kiva website. for the last three days we've been traveling to villages, meeting women who are taking out the loans, taking their pictures, writing down their stories, etc. Before long they'll start appearing on the Kiva website. We'll tell you some of the stories here too.

Friendship Bridge is a marvelous organization that makes loans and education for women and their children a major priority. Almost all their clients are the indigenous Maya women of Guatemala, starting and growing little businesses, things like buying a cow or getting additional inventory for a little store, or buying material for their weaving business. We encourage you to visit their website and view the excellent videos they have there.

We'll be updating you on what we see and learn.