Sunday, 23 May 2010

Kiva Loans by Unitarian Flames


Have you ever wanted to do something about poverty in faraway parts of the world? Have you ever wanted to help someone directly? Have you ever noticed how, even if you found a way to do it, that most of your donation disappears in money transfer costs? And have you ever wanted toi do it with a Unitarian connection?

Unitarians Lisa and Mike Greenly introduced a wonderful new program at the Victoria CUC meetings this weekend that can get our dollars directly and responsibly into the hands of the people who most need it. I signed up. It was fun and felt really, really good.

Lisa and Mike have made a connection with the Kiva organization (, a group that arranges and monitors micro-loans all around the world. Their slogan is "loans that change lives". They have local professionals who vet and approve proposed projects. They monitor the projects once the loan is made and collect the repayments.

So what happens if you want to get involved? First you join Kiva (it's free) and become a Lender, then you can explore the available loan projects. It changes all the time. This Sunday morning there are 1,282 projects raising funds. There is a handy search engine that allows you to shrink the field by gender, by region or nation, by project type (for example agriculture, green work, personal use etc.) You can read profiles about the people and the projects, find out how much they have already raised and then choose which project you want to support. The total size of loans run from a few hundred up to about $2500.

Now here's a fun part: Kiva only wants you to donate $25 to any one project. They believe this should be a shared experience. When was looking I found Stephen Mugambi,a 62 year old Kenyan farmer trying to raise $600 to purchase a dairy cow. Yesterday afternoon he had one donor. I thought it worthwhile and clicked the "Lend $25". Sunday morning I checked. Stephen's loan is fully raised. Yahoo!

Once you set up your account, you can follow the project, check on how your recipients are doing on their repayments and so on. When the loans are fully paid, your money comes back to you! You see you aren't a donor, you are a lender. You can take the money out or you can relend it elsewhere.

One of my daughters has her seventh birthday coming soon. I plan to give her $25 to lend and hope we can have some fund finding a person and a project she wants to support. Why do I think she will pick something to do with animals? :)

So back at the start of this article I mentioned Lisa and Mike Greenly and the Unitarian connection. When I joined up, I became part of the "Unitarian Flames" team. Thanks to a great organizational effort by the Greenlys and friends, a generous gift from a benefactor, and the willing generosity of Canadian Unitarians at that meeting, Unitarian Flames is now the largest Canadian religious lender group. Woo Hoo!

You can reach Lisa and Mike directly at

Now for those who are members and friends of UCE, when we get back to Edmonton, I will come bearing gifts. We will arrange a Kiva-Unitarian Flames workshop after the Flower Communion service on June 13 for anyone who wants help signing up. To kick-start the program, Lisa has given us 20 gift certificates from the anonymous benefactor. These gift certificates are good for one $25 loan. In other words, you can make your first loan using . How cool is that!

It's easy, it's fun, and most importantly it's a way to directly change a life of some specific individual who really needs your help.

Rev. Brian Kiely

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