I got an email today from Kiva that began:
Dear Jennifer Pahlka,
Good news: you’ve been repaid!
Indeed, and with karmic interest. Kiva is a non-profit that facilitates microloans from individuals to other individuals in the developing world, helping people start businesses and hopefully escape poverty. I’ve loaned three times on Kiva, and get periodic emails on the progress of the loan repayment. Since multiple lenders fund each project (generally), lenders get paid back once the entire amount has been paid back by the entrepreneur. This particular loan, to a 22 year old Mexican craftswoman, was paid back in a little less than a year. I’ve reinvested the amount I got back; this time I’m funding a 47 year old woman in Tajikistan who has a small dairy and wants to buy another cow. It’s truly gratifying to be able to help, and other than some miniscule interest I might have otherwise made on the money (possibly nothing), it doesn’t actually cost anything.
And speaking of being paid back, if you really want an emotional boost, try donating to DonorsChoose. The concept is similar, in that you choose from thousands of projects to fund, but these are projects in schools, put up by teachers who lack funding. Once the project is fully funded, the funds are distributed, the materials purchased, and the project proceeds. The last one I did was just buying some books for a classroom; some are for computers or science materials, or just a bookshelf. It takes a while for all the steps to happen, so just when you’ve forgotten you contributed, you get a big fat envelope with letters from the kids and pictures of them in the classroom reading the books. My friend Stacy got a similar package from the project she funded, and we both had the same reaction upon opening it: we blubbered like babies. Granted, it doesn’t take a lot to make me cry; really, the idea that kids write thank you notes is enough.
Anyway, I’m not naïve enough to think that I’m saving the world, but I do appreciate what these organizations are doing. Part of me wonders if the whole “direct to an entrepreneur” or “direct to a teacher” thing is a little…I don’t know…Republican, as if we can’t trust the larger organizations who try to help on a more systematic scale. I could angst about it but instead I’ll just give to both types.
But speaking of being repaid, while I logically know that whatever tiny contributions (financial, I didn’t have the balls to phone bank this time) I have made to his campaign, Obama did not actually win the primary FOR ME IN PARTICULAR, but I sure feel like I got a really nice present last week. Then, while I was writing this, I also read this post by Tim O’Reilly, and it’s been feeling a lot like Christmas in June around here.