09 February 2011

Giving: The Butterfly Effect

Early last summer, I read Bill Clinton's Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World in which the former president makes the case for the donation of time, money and energy on behalf of our fellow man.  (I could have sworn I reviewed it in this blog, but it turns out I only dashed off a brief review for Goodreads.)  It was in that book that I was introduced to the concept of micro-loans.  The premise is simple enough.  You put up a fraction of a loan, taken by a recipient somewhere in the world who is trying to improve his or her lot--and more often than not, his or her community in the process.  You're not out much money; the standard is $25.00.  If something goes awry at least it's not a terribly great sum.  In most cases, though, the loans are repaid and you can choose to re-circulate your money by making another micro-loan or you can get your money back.  It's simple, reasonably low-risk and has the potential to make an impact in the lives of other people.  In short, it's charity for the 21st Century.

So I got to talking about this concept with some friends about this after I finished the book, more or less because one of them has a background in economics and business affairs and I was hoping to get a better sense of how this all worked.  Apparently, I planted quite the seed because today's mail brought an envelop from that friend containing two $25 gift cards to Kiva, the organization that facilitates micro-loans.  I handed one to my wife and then I promptly began searching for my first micro-loan recipient.  It took a while; there are a lot of people with modest ambitions in very needy parts of the world.

I hate to say it, but I shied away from a lot of the Muslim candidates because their faces were frequently blurred.  I realize it's a petty thing, but I like to at least see the face of the person I'm told wants my money.  Maybe all the photos were staged and it's just a big scam, but somehow I feel better seeing an actual face.  I'm funny that way.
This guy asked for $650.  I ponied up $25 of it.
Eventually, I settled on Herbart Mwesigwa.  Here's his Kiva bio:

Herbart Mwesigwa is 30 years old and lives in the town of Kitintale in the Kampala central region of Uganda. He is married and has one child, who is not currently in school. Herbart has a medical clinic business, which he has run for two years. 
To help expand his business, Herbart has requested a loan of 1,500,000 UGX from Kiva partner, BRAC Uganda. The loan will be used to purchase more medicine for resale. With the help of his loan from BRAC, Herbart hopes to generate greater profits and buy food for his family. In the future, he hopes to expand his medical clinic further.

It was the only loan request for something health related, and by the time I found Mr. (Dr.?) Mwesigwa's profile he was a scant $50 away from raising his $650.00 US loan.  By the time I completed the process of contributing to his loan pool, someone else had done the same.  Now he'll have the money to get some medicine, and he's expected to have this loan repaid by March next year.  I don't know how soon I can personally expect to see my investment repaid, but even if it's not until next March at least I'll have progress updates and eventually I should have the $25 back to re-circulate.

In conclusion, then, Bill Clinton wrote a book that I bought at Half Price Books, that inspired a conversation, that led to a generous Christmas gift from a friend of mine, that led to $25 being loaned to a guy in Uganda so he can build up a medical clinic.  Somewhere, Ian Malcolm is smiling.

1 comment: