Friday, February 26, 2010

Helping Poor Entrepreneurs in China

Just a quick post.

Some of you know I am a big advocate for and this idea of micro-finance in general.

For those of you who don't know what micro finance is, it is actually much less daunting than it sound. Just a fancy term for making small loans available for poor entrepreneurs in poor countries. You can read about it here or you can skip the article and read my scattered summary in the next 3 paragraphs.

Kiva is an online organization that allows people to go online, make a profile, and help make these loans available. You can lend in as small a denomination as $25 and what is even better is that you eventually get the money back. (I choose to continually loan it out, but you can with draw it too.) Every dollar goes to the recipient. (Kiva does ask for an optional %15 donation to help operations though)

Kiva also allows you to choose where your money goes. You can sort borrowers by location, sex, trade, or amount of need. Then once you have made a loan it shows who else is lending to those people. I loan as part of a team, the "Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious"

Anyway, For whatever reason I tend to give preference to places I have been, and in the past I most frequently made loans in Tanzania. But, because of China's currency policies you can't lend in China via kiva.

But there is good news! Today I found Wokai(in Chinese "Wo" means I and "Kai" means start) They are a newer, smaller operation than kiva but operate in a similar way. A nice difference is that the contribution amount is even smaller, just $10 (with optional 10% donation for operations). So I signed up and made my first loan to a doctor named Zhou Heping in Sichuan. You can view his profile here.

I would encourage anyone to participate in either one of these organizations. I have had great experiences with kiva including a touching letter from one of my borrowers, 100% pay back every time (7 loans), and some great dialogue with my fellow team members.

More about China and what not tomorrow probably.

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