My classroom operates a microloan account through Kiva that has been funded over the years by students through the sale of poetry. We have a total of $250 that we loan to small business owners and entrepreneurs around the world, focusing primarily on third world nations where our money can do the most good.
Whenever we have money available to loan, my students spend a couple hours researching prospective loan applicants on Kiva’s website, choosing possible recipients for our loan and writing proposals that are then read to the class. We debate the merits of each proposal and ultimately decide to whom our money will be lent via a vote.
My students love the process. The ability to make a tangible difference in another person’s life is a powerful experience for them, and the time spent learning about these struggling entrepreneurs provides a greater perspective and understanding of the world beyond our borders.
It has also led to a possible holiday gift idea:
In lieu of a traditional gift, why not open a microloan account on someone’s behalf via an organization like Kiva and provide enough funding for the recipient to begin making loans? Kiva requires loans to be made in $25 increments, so for a relatively small amount of money, you can give a friend or loved one the gift of gift giving. There are even microloan organizations that allow for the lender to charge a nominal interest rate, meaning your gift could continue to grow for the recipient as the money continues to be lent.
I love this idea for both children and adults. It’s unusual, it provides the recipient with a renewable experience, it serves as a counter to the materialism and commercialism that dominate so much of holiday gift giving. and it does not contribute to the accumulation of stuff in a person’s home.
It’s the perfect gift.
Moreover, there is a decent chance that this particular gift would be poorly received by the gift-obsessed, materialistic moron who insists on traditional, quid pro quo gift giving.
You know who I mean. Right? That less-than-enlightened person in your life who remembers every gift that he or she has ever received and attempts to infer your intentions and level of affection based upon the quality and cost of the gift.
In exchange for the cashmere sweater that he or she has given you, this particular breed of materialistic friend or relative expects something of similar value and quality in return. Offering the ability to loan $50 to a dressmaker in Guatemala or a fruit picker in Pakistan might annoy this kind of person, which makes the gift even more appealing in my eyes.
Poking and prodding and provoking the materialistic can be great fun, and even better, it’s al for a worthy cause.