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Opinion

Gift-giving can benefit those in need through micro-lending organizations

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November 12, 2009

Goodbye, Halloween, excuse me, Thanksgiving and hello, Christmas. Whether we agree with it or not, the consumers’ world rings one theme now that November has topped our calendars: buy your way to Christmas.

Reminders of what a failure the holiday would be with the wrong gift are peppered throughout stores and advertisements.

Better start the gift planning now, or come Dec. 26, you might be weeping on your mother’s cold doorstep-ostracized for that lame spatula set you gave her. 

While thinking of what to get those I love for Christmas I began my search where most do—the Internet. Before long I forgot what I was doing and clicked the StumbleUpon button nested in my web browser. StumbleUpon is the devil’s tool that has snatched away more of my time than cartoons have. The button is like putting your web browser on shuffle. Click the button, check out the random site, click the button again-it’s an easy procrastination tool. Whilst wasting my mouse clicks I came upon something I certainly didn’t expect but was indeed worth my time.

Kiva is an organization considered to be the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending institution. Micro-lending involves loaning individuals living in poverty across the globe small amounts of money in order to help them start and/or sustain a small business. In time the money loaned is paid back, sometimes with interest. This system encourages socioeconomic development, and Kiva’s mission “to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty” does just that. Other Web sites such as World Vision Micro and MicroPlace offer the same opportunity.

Lenders can browse entrepreneurs’ profiles and choose individuals to lend their money to, receive e-mail journal updates of those helped, and even track payments. Kiva partners with other microfinance institutions to reach more people in need of assistance. These partners review and select the qualified entrepreneurs, uploading their profiles to Kiva for lenders to help. 

Many micro-lending organizations work to keep the lending process transparent, so those who have borrowed money can see their loan helping small business owners in impoverished conditions and make the entrepreneurs’ lives a bit better. Kiva also offers gift certificates, a perfect opportunity to do some good on a holiday focused on giving to others.

The recipient of a gift certificate can choose the profile to lend the gift of money to, watch it in action and receive that money once it is paid back, usually within 6 to 12 months. For a minimum of $25 a person could give someone the chance to help someone else across the oceans-yet still get the money after it has done some good. 

While I munch on the dark part of the turkey and scoop up the stuffing this coming holiday (I remember you, Thanksgiving), I know I’m going to feel more good than guilt with my Christmas purchases. The point of Christmas is to give, to help, to show love…we all know that. Check out www.kiva.org and see if you can make a gift for one person help many this season. 

<b>Laura Krawczyk</b> is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.