Change Starts Here: We just broke the $7,000 mark!

Irina in Ukraine

W00T! With the funds collected during a small group lunch, re-investment of repaid loans and more loans given by our Kiva lenders’ team, we just flew past the $7,000 mark on our social project.

Our latest micro finance loans went to Afghanistan, Philippines, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Bolivia, Uganda and Ukraine.

One of them was Irina Tatarchook (picture) in the Ukraine. Irina wanted to expand her assortment of flower offerings in her market stall. We gave her a loan of $50.

Check out our project score card.

The background of this project, you find in the kick-off post.

The latest project news tid-bits, you can also find The Road’s discussion forum.

Update from the Virgen de Fátima Group in Bolivia

Virgin de Fatima group in Bolivia

Virgin de Fatima group in Bolivia

Progress received from one of our projects in Bolivia:

As a Kiva Fellow working with Kiva’s local partner MFI in Bolivia, Emprender, I recently had the opportunity to visit with the women in the Virgen de Fatima group.

The women were waiting for me to rush back from another client visit and meet them at the home of Graciela, where they meet once every two weeks to make their loan payments. At first everyone was a little quiet and timid, but soon they relaxed and I felt very welcome in this large group of friends. We went around the circle, and I learned a little about each person’s business.

Raquel has a small business selling used clothing as a vender. She has a small cart where she displays her clothes, and every day looks for a good place to set up shop. She has been doing this for the past year, and finds that she makes more money in this business than she did selling juices. She used her loan to make the change and is very happy she did so.

Graciela has a small restaurant where she sells breakfast and lunch for 10 Bolivianos, or about $1.50. Each lunch is a fixed menu and includes both a large, hearty soup, and a main course. Sometimes she offers api which is a traditional drink for cooler weather. It is made of ground corn, water, lemon juice, sugar, cloves and cinnamon and is served with some type of fried pastry with cheese.

Asunta has a small variety store for the past 3 years where she caries a large variety of pastries and packaged sweets. She has recently decided to supplement this store with make-up sales. She used her Kiva funded loan to move in this direction.

Aida makes different jams and spreads. She makes a very popular strawberry and peach jam with all natural ingredients. She also makes Manjar Blanco which is similar to dulce de leche, but it doesn’t have any additives. This is made by boiling milk and sugar until it thickens into a sauce poured onto bread and other breakfast items. She makes lots of jars of this from her house, based on different orders from her clients, which are most often friends, neighbors and family members. She is hoping to set up a contract with different elementary schools in the area and provide a fixed amount of jam weekly.

Ruth also sells perfumes and cosmetics, but needed the capital to purchase the items. Her friends are quick to add that Ruth’s creams are the nicest to be found in El Torno, a town outside of Santa Cruz, Bolivia where these women live.

I was sorry not to have time to visit with the whole group but really enjoyed getting to know these businesses better. Thank you for supporting them!

The end of world poverty as we know it. Or not yet?

kiva running out of loans

Faithful readers know of our blog’s social project we started back in November. We fund microfinance projects via Kiva, an online non-for-profit “brokerage” service between those in need of a micro finance loan and those willing to fund them.

Over the past months, readers from The Road, friends, friends of friends, and colleagues jumped in, and joined our Kiva lenders’ team. At this moment, we total over $6,400 of loans (Check here for the latest status)

The system seems to work well, and after the initial investment in loans, the repayments started to come in two months after the first loan. At this moment, about US$2,000 of loans have been repaid.

It seems Kiva’s success caught on real fast. This week alone, they allocated US$1.8 million of microfinance loans. Quite impressive, if you consider that a typical loan is given in chunks of $25.

Kiva’s success is that big that often, like tonight, you log onto their site, and… they have ran out of people to allocate loans to.

A bit frustrating, knowing that at this moment I am ‘sitting’ on $600 of repaid loans I would like to reinvest, but on the other hand, their success and apparent efforts to keep up with the success of microfinancing, and particularly success of the brokerage-system of Kiva, shows a difference can be made.

As I am, right now, looking at the screen of the lenders page, searching for people to allocate loans to, I only see grey’d-out fields of entrepreneurs with the remark ‘Fully Funded’, I am thinking of the song of John Lennon. And “imagine” that maybe that will be, one day, the status of poverty in the world. “We are sorry, but we no longer have people in need”.

Call me a dreamer.

Update from the Fuerza Divina Group in Dominican Republic

Martina from the Fuerza Divina group

Martina from the Fuerza Divina group

Today I received this progress report from the Fuerza Divina Group in Dominican Republic:

Martina used her Kiva loan to travel to Santo Domingo to buy curtains, blankets, shoes, and other items requested by her customers. This week is Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is a week long vacation celebrated by going to the beautiful beaches of the Dominican Republic.

Martina took advantage of this popular vacation and bought towels, swimsuits, and sandals in bulk to sell the week before, and when I visited her she had sold out of all her vacation merchandise. With her profits Martina buys more merchandise, but saves the majority for any “medical, or personal emergency” she might have.

This was Martina’s 5th loan with Esperanza! She is such an exceptional entrepreneur and group leader that Esperanza awarded her with a “Best Group Coordinator” award this past December. Her future business plans are to expand her business and sell sliver jewelry.

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