I've been living in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, now for about three weeks now. Working in microfinance has afforded me the rare opportunity as a Westerner to get a peek into the personal lives of urban and rural Cambodians. I landed this sweet gig as a fellowship with Kiva.org.
Kiva is an online community which enables you
to loan to poor entrepreneurs in developing countries so that they can achieve their financial dreams, and thereby get closer to achieving their personal goals (e.g., improve their living conditions, send children to school). Kiva partners with regulated and well-respected microfinance organizations all over the world who specialize in helping the poor by giving them access to financial services. Until microfinance organizations sprouted up around the world, poor borrowers would be rejected for loans, because they do not have the collateral demanded by traditional banks. As a result, poor borrowers must turn to local money lenders, who charge exorbitant interest rates and use unjust enforcement tactics.
The beauty of microcredit programs is that it's not charity. It's sustainable business that positively affects the poor and working class! The positive influence doesn't leave when some state department or NGO runs out of funding; the proceeds of the loan fund future operations. What is amazing about microfinance programs is that these poor borrowers tend to have average repayment rates of 97% or higher. Large banks could only dream of getting such prudent repayment from their affluent customers!
Simply put, Kiva works as follows...
1. Log onto Kiva
2. Browse through entrepreneurs from developing countries around the world -- Cambodia, Afghanistan, Kenya, Ecuador, etc.
3. Choose the entrepreneur with whom you identify with (e.g., Mariam
, a cattle farmer in rural Mali)
4. Choose how much you wish to loan to the entrepreneur
5. View the progress of your entrepreneurs business through payment updates and occasional journals about the borrower
6. Upon repayment of the loan, re-loan, donate, or withdraw your funds!
Anyways, that's the intro on microfinance in general. If I get enough feedback feedback from the mymodmet community I'll keep you updated with interesting stories from the field and about living in Cambodia, in general.