Saturday, October 18, 2008

Travel, Charity, Support With Micro Loans

If you’ve ever traveled to less-developed parts of the world, you can’t help but be aware of the disparity of wealth between Americans and people in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, etc. – there are pockets of poverty everywhere. Many words have been wasted arguing about tipping, handouts, giving gifts or money, and other ways of supporting individuals in less fortunate countries.

In general, we believe that part of our responsibility as travelers to those regions of the world includes some form of support. Yet we really, really dislike the give-away attitude. We’d really rather support organizations such as Kiva, which offers people an incentive to do better for themselves.

Kiva does not give away any money or “things” – they loan money to folks who are truly trying to create a better life with the loan they receive. We’ve been supporting Kiva for a couple of years now, and are extremely pleased with what they seem to be accomplishing. (In the past, we’ve also supported organizations such as Heifer International and other charitable causes, so we feel we have a good base of comparison.) Note that Kiva is a loan organization – not only do the recipients have an incentive to become self-supporting, but when they pay back your loan (which they nearly all do), you can then redirect your funds to another deserving individual.

Each of us makes our own choices, but if you’re a traveler to a part of the world where people could use some help, consider supporting an organization such as Kiva instead of handing dollars or trinkets to people on the street. You can support an individual trying to start a business or improve a life with as little as $25 to Kiva. Seems to us that goes so much farther than a handout.

Malawi, Africa