Micro lending is basically lending small amounts of money to poor people so they can start up small businesses and plant crops. People living in poverty don’t need conventional high dollar loans and it isn’t profitable for typical banks to loan to the poor, especially in small amounts with no employment history.
Kiva.org is a website that connects you with hundreds of micro lending organizations throughout the world and personal profiles of people who wish to borrow small amounts, typically in the $500-$1500 range. You can loan to whoever you like in increments of $25 and when enough people loan the requested amount the funds are distributed to the borrower.
Anyhow, funny thing about this site, you can belong to a “group” and put your loan in their name, kinda like a vote. The #1 group by a long shot is an atheists group. http://www.kiva.org/team/atheists So next time anyone asks what atheists do for humanity I will have an answer: they aren’t banded together in an atheist organization and do it individually. When it is easy to band together like online you can see their results, look at kiva.org.
Another interesting thing is these microlenders are sometimes religious organizations. The atheist group has a list so you can avoid lending via religious micro finance groups which may place religious requirements or preferences on borrowers. list here: http://atheist-monkey.blogspot.com/2009/08/kiva-mfi-checker.html#list Some members even developed a firefox greasemonkey script and a google chrome extension to help you identify them while you browse!
The Atheist group is currently running an april fools-athon to raise awareness and get out more loans:
April 1st – We’re no April Fools! We will not waste our money tithing to a religious organization when we can do some actual good by lending capital directly to our fellow Humans who need it!
Kiva is a GREAT way for you to directly empower women in developing nations. It isn’t a handout, it isn’t a donation – you get your money back if they repay and most do.
They even have an online payment schedule so you can see when you are going to get your money back:
I highly encourage you to at least try it out. the most you are going to lose is $25 but even if they don’t pay back the feeling you get by enabling them to step out of the depths of poverty is priceless. That “feeling” isn’t an entirely selfless motivation to continue to lend and I warn you it can be addicting!