REDUCING POVERTY BY CREATING OPPORTUNITY
As part of my original application to become a Kiva Fellow I wrote in my motivation statement the following. “As a volunteer, I would look forward to working in the front lines, directly with the people whom Kiva wants to help. It would provide an opportunity for me to have a positive impact face to face rather than making loans in front of a computer.”
This week that wish came true. I will share with you three stories from our field visits.
Paulus travels 7 km to school by bike and public transit. As I sat in the straw house looking around, I couldn’t imagine being there during a heavy Indonesian rain. They basically live a subsistence life. Despite the dirt floor and straw walls, we were received with great hospitality. We were served tea with deep fried bananas (my favourite) from their own crop and soy fritters. They showed the utmost appreciation for the opportunity their son has because of the Kiva loan.
This kid is going places. During the Muslim month of Ramadan, he bought cookies in bulk, repackaged and sold them is small more attractive packages. The profit was used to buy his father a goat which has since had a baby. He also wants to attend the Maritime Academy after high school.
The small house of a pretty 14 year old girl Sutriani is by a river in a small village. We had to walk a distance in from the road to get there. I don’t know how they raised 7 children in this place. Her and three other sisters sat lined up on the side of a bed on the other side of the room, quietly and politely listening to us adults talking at their kitchen table. We were served tea (made and served by the daughters) with yam chips. As we were leaving, mom gave me a big bag of chips to take as a gift. They have so little but are so generous to a stranger.
Her father said he has to sell goat(s) to pay for another daughter’s wedding in October. He doesn’t have enough goats to sell to pay for Sutriani’s tuition and is very grateful for the Kiva loan.
What I saw in all these homes was great families living in poverty by Canadian standards. However, as Kiva puts it, ending poverty is not simply improving material wealth but giving people opportunities. That’s what Kiva loans are doing for these young people. Loans are not handouts. The parents and children are committed to pay the money back with improved work opportunities after graduation. They are the ones working to improve their situation. Kiva loans are a lending hand.