Have you heard of Kiva? It’s revolutionizing the way we lift people out of poverty. Harvard Economist (and author of The End of Poverty) Jeffrey Sachs says that micro-lending is the single most viable method to end poverty in our lifetimes.
I’ve made numerous loans through Kiva for years. They have always been paid back extremely quickly, and then the money is back in my account to loan again. Most of the loans I have made have been for $25 — this money is pooled with other micro-loans from people around the world, to loan the recipients a few hundred dollars to start a business, buy a sewing machine, or a cow or chickens, or supplies to craft or resell. It’s an amazingly simple way to let someone become self-supporting and support their family, rather than a charity handout. It’s also much more empowering for the recipients.
In fact, the rate of repayment for micro-loans in the developing world is much, much higher than the rate of repayment for traditional credit in the first world — an amazing 98.94% repayment rate!
Now Kiva is making an amazing offer — new lenders can sign up through existing Kiva partners like myself — and then BOTH Kiva lenders get $25 deposited in their account, for free, to loan out. What is there to lose? It’s a win-win-win situation, for the lender and recipient and Kiva.
My last loan was made to Esther (47), in Nairobi, Kenya. My $25, plus other lenders, gave Esther a total $900 loan that she used to buy a stock of clothing to resell, and raw material to make hair wax that she then sold. And the loan was 100% repaid. Esther has been running her business for 12 years, and used this loan to expand her business to support her family.
And in case you’re wondering, 100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes directly towards funding loans; Kiva does not take a cut. Furthermore, Kiva does not charge interest to their Field Partners, who administer the loans.
I have also made loans to Sok in Cambodia, a 50-year-old woman who farms for a living and earns $1.50 per day. Sok’s husband is a motorcyle taxi-rickshaw driver and earns $3 per day. Her requested loan of $500 went to buy a new motorbike for her husband, to earn the family additional income so that they can make repairs to their home. I’ve also made loans in The Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan. I re-loaned my Kiva credit, from repayments of past loans, to the group Fe Y Esperanza in Nicaragua, a communal bank of 11 women who have various business ventures; and the Mungu Tubariki Group in Tanzania.
Now, with the money paid back from previous loans and the $25 that Kiva credited me via this promotion, I have just made a new loan — my first loan in India, where Kiva just announced its newest launch! I have often wondered why Kiva did not have loans available in India; it’s because determining how to work in India wasn’t easy. In particular, Kiva loans are subject to Reserve Bank of India regulations that require loan funds sent to non-government microfinance institutions to remain in the country for at least 3 years.
Therefore, any Kiva loan made within India won’t be paid back for 3 years; the Kiva Field Partners will simply hold on to loan funds for the minimum 3-year term before sending repayments back to lenders. The borrower you select will probably repay beforehand, in which case your funds will be recycled to help other local borrowers, maximizing your impact before your funds are returned. That is perfectly fine with me — and so I made my new loan to the Sri Jaggannath Group, a cooperative of four women in Cuttack, Odisha where I visit every time I go to India, and the region where my children’s home that I support is. These women have a general store, and want to use the loan to expand their inventory and increase their stock of items. In the last year, the shop was relocated due to road construction and the move has hurt business. I hope that my Kiva loan helps!
Give,” said the little stream, as it hurried down the hill; “I’m small, I know, but wherever I go the fields grow greener still.”
I became aware today of a very sad situation, which tragically happens to many young women across India.
Sonali Mukherjee is a young woman who was verbally abused and harassed by a group of local men. When she dared to complain about their teasing, they retaliated by pouring acid on her while she slept. Although the assailants were taken into custody, they were later released on bail and still have not had justice served to them. They remain free, while Sonali has to live with the pain and suffering of their violent attack for the rest of her life. Not only that, her family has gone into huge debt to pay for both her treatment, and legal costs to pursue justice.
Below is Sonali’s account, in her own words. You can help by signing this petition to the prime leaders of India to help bring proper legal ramifications to her attackers. You can also make a donation to her cause. I did both — will you? Sonali is so in despair right now that she would rather end her life than continue without further treatment or justice. Where is the humanity in that?
On April 22, 2003, I, Sonali Mukherjee, was severely injured in an acid attack, that left me with a burnt face, burnt body, blind and partially deaf. I was just 17-years-old then. Three assailants – Tapas Mitra, Sanjay Paswan, and Bhrahmadev Hajra, our neighbors in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, poured acid on me while I slept. Before I could realize I felt as if my body was on fire and I collapsed.
They punished me because I dared to complain against their eve teasing. When I warned them, they told me I was haughty and proud about my looks. They said they will ruin my face beyond recognition. And when that did not deter me, they carried through their threat and you can see the consequences.
The accused were immediately taken into custody, but were released on bail in 2006. My father and I approached the high court, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, MPs and various other authorities for justice, but no one listened. Since then, they are roaming scot-free. For 9-years we have been fighting a case against them and requesting the authorites to cancel their bail, but no success has come our way yet.
I am in extreme pain since the incident and don’t have the capacity to withhold it anymore – neither the money nor the hope.
Therefore, I demand either justice and help in treatment or permission to end my life.
PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION and help me get justice and means to live the remaining part of my life without pain and agony.
You can also make a donation to Sonali’s medical and legal costs.
The Miracle Foundation recently returned from India, and another successful (and fun) volunteer trip. This was the first group volunteer trip to the Bethel Home, TMF’s newest home in South India.
TMF Founder Caroline Boudreaux and Travel Coordinator Barbara Joubert
share their Top Moments from the trip:
The boy who couldn’t smile
One of the housemothers was taking his picture and told him to smile. He said he just couldn’t. Then, TMF paid for these kids to go on their first ever outing. They went to a park, got a special treat and got to see some animals. On the way home, the little boy went to the housemother and told her that a miracle had happened that day: he learned how to smile.
The pink bandana
Shubashree received a hot pink bandana. All day long, she would take off the bandana and carefully unfold it, smooth and then refold it. She would ask everyone to tie the bandana back around her head; but soon she would be taking it off and refolding it again, and asking others to refold it. She was so proud of that bandana!
Photo: Shubashree and TMF volunteer
The social status of kids living in an orphanage home is low; they are usually only the recipients of charity. The kids at Bethel were never asked to do anything, until TMF showed up and started a children’s club and Life Skills Education. “We gave them duties and make them responsible by implementing these clubs,” Caroline says. “The children take the clubs very seriously. They have a sense of themselves that the housemothers have never seen before. They’ve got a team spirit about them now.”
A paint brush for every child
The big project for the volunteer group at Bethel was painting murals in the school building. Many artists shined, and Barbara says that the kids are so talented that each one should have their own paintbrush, with their names on them!
Photo by TMF Ambassador Joanne Connerty
Hula hooping nuns
The Bethel home is run by nuns; one day, a field trip to the beach was planned for the volunteers, nuns and children. Volunteers had bought hula hoops for all the kids; but perhaps the nuns had more fun with them than the kids do. How often do you see nuns hula hooping on the beach?
A special goodbye
As the volunteers were getting ready to leave, one wanted to say goodbye to the child who had been his painting helper. He asked for the child, and everyone went searching until that child was found, and brought to the bus so the volunteer could say goodbye to him. “That kid looked so honored that he was searched for,” said Barbara. To be sought out, to be asked for by name, to be noticed as special, is a very powerful thing for these children without their own homes and families.
Today’s story is a guest post by Lloyd Greene, a fine art photographer.
One of the Holiest Places for Hindus is the west bank of the Ganges River in Hardiwar, India. Many people pilgrimage yearly to pay respect at this “Gateway to God.” This spiritual center is where the Temples reside and evening prayers are conducted. Upon entering the area, all shoes are confiscated. Everyone must walk barefoot on the cool wet tile. There are benches where you can sit behind the altars, but my favorite spot is to kneel along the steps in front of the Ganges.
From this location, I had a direct view of the altars and the pilgrims sending tributes in the river. I didn’t understand Hindi, but easily understood the solemn intensity of Pilgrims getting ready for prayers. As the afternoon light turned into a royal blue, the music started and the sweet smell of incense got stronger. I tried to ignore this wonderful assault on my senses, because I came to the Ganges to make imagery.
My name is Lloyd Greene and I am a photographer.
My thoughts of traveling to India started several years ago. I read stories about Pilgrims traveling great distances for the spiritual cleansing and healing in the Ganges River. So I researched and planned my expedition. The result was that Haridwar, India was a great place to visit, learn and commune.
Haridwar is a long way from my home in Beaverceek, Ohio. Getting there took more than a full day, but the transportation was straightforward.
The trip effectively started with American Airlines in Chicago. They have nonstop 777 flight service into New Delhi, which is 7477 miles away and it takes approximately 14 hours. I got a window seat and was constantly rewarded with exciting scenery. We flew over the polar ice cap, Finland, Russia and Afghanistan. I mentally whispered my gratitude to the Boeing engineers and AA flight crew as we safely touched down at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
The ground transportation in India was more fun than any amusement park. Immediately outside of the airport, I noticed that traffic proceeds on the left side of the road. That was an easy observation. The harder part was figuring who had the right-of-way (or is it the left of way). There were trucks, buses, cars, rickshaws, auto rickshaws, motorcycles, horses, oxen and pedestrians—they all share and compete for space on the same roads. The tuk-tuks (auto rickshaws) were my preferred travel method in Delhi, because they were convenient and easily able to deliver me to my photographic spots. However, these three-wheeled open-air vehicles didn’t seem very safe on some boulevards. There were times when I couldn’t muster the courage to watch the vehicles driving in what seemed like a real life bumper car ride. The vehicles routinely passed each other within inches, but I never saw an accident in Delhi during my short stay there.
After an incredible week in Delhi, I eagerly boarded a train north through the countryside to Haridwar. For the first time in many days, I had comfort and quiet from the hustle-bustle of Delhi. Well, every now and then we could hear the train’s horn. Even so, it was a relaxing morning of tea, biscuits and vistas of the Indian countryside. In general, the Haridwar countryside was charming and peaceful. There were still lots of people, but there seemed to be more room for everyone. Yes, all the familiar transportation vehicles were in the country also but the activity slowed to a much more comfortable pace. In addition to the baths, the town has an airport, business, hotels and industry like many other small towns in the world. But—the Ganges makes Haridwar unique.
My daily trips to the banks of the Ganges were always different and emotionally rewarding. The view from the bridge caused most pilgrims to stop, gawk and take a picture—I did it myself several times! I saw a wide variety of activity including weddings and funerals. Parents ensured that young people were appropriately dipped in the Ganges. Children carried water up to the Elders who weren’t able to traverse the stairs. Many people stripped down to their undies and jumped in the cold water. Some people splashed and others completely immersed themselves and a few even drank the water. This activity continued throughout the day until it was time for the prayers to start.
Usually about 4:30 in the afternoon, people start making their way towards the altar for evening prayer. While making my way down to the banks, I met one woman who has made the pilgrimage for 60 years. She smiled at me and said, “these days, the trip takes a little longer.” She asked me to allow her a few minutes for a prayer ritual and then inquired about my journey. Since I live in a farming community, we had a short discussion about the need for a bountiful crop in the fall. For us, the crop is profit, but each year it is survival for her. Then she stopped and whispered prayers for my village in the United States.
There are many unofficial and genuine spiritual leaders welcoming you for prayer. A man in yellow robes saw me from about 50 yards, and made eye contact. I was a little cautious as I approached. Then, he extended a warm greeting and I went straight towards him. We chatted for a few minutes (with the help from my interpreter), and I learned that he wanted to provide a blessing for my family. He then posed so that I would have images to bring home to my village—after all, I was also on a pilgrimage of sorts.
Once at the ceremony, we were instructed to sit “Yoga-Style.” All Pilgrims wanted a good view down front of the Priests and fires, and so did I. However, I noticed one night that there was an old woman sitting behind me. I motioned for her to get in front of me, and she got a big grin on her face. She moved up, and so did the other 15 members of her family J Even from behind, there was still plenty to see and experience. There were Priests circulating through the crowd who sprinkled water and blessed the Pilgrims. They also offered tribute prayer boats for people to send down the Ganges.
I also received blessings and floated my tribute down the Ganges. Then, I shot pictures of my new friends and other Pilgrims as they celebrated well into the night. We left with a good feeling in our hearts and smiles on our faces. If you choose to visit, I’m sure that your experience can be spiritually rewarding like other pilgrims–and photographers.
- At the Ganges in Haridwar, visit both Banks
- Always look to your right BEFORE stepping off a curb
- Stay on the Hotel’s highest floor possible for the least noise
- Skype is a low-cost way to stay in touch back home
- Maintain a folder of itineraries, addresses and contacts; I used mine routinely AND needed the plane information upon return to the airport
- Keep the Embassy’s phone number in your shoe in case of emergencies
- Remember that India has more than 1.3 billion people in a geographical area about one-half of the U.S.-There is always competition for space, seats and rooms.
Lloyd Greene is a fine art photographer. To view additional imagery from this expedition or others, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at http://www.greeneone.com . The expedition lead and interpreter was Mr. Hardik Pandya email@example.com.
I am sincerely grateful for the people supporting my expedition: Hardik, my guide; He kept me safe and sound. The Hotel Manager at the Rivera Ganges who insisted that I share tea with him during the mornings. The cab drivers who tolerated me hollering “stop here.” The scores of Pilgrims who posed at the Ganges and prayed for my family and village. The hundreds of kids who wanted me to take their picture. And, my family and friends.
All Images copyright by GreeneOne Photography 2012–All Rights Reserved