A Small Way Gay People Are Changing the World
BY Michelle Garcia
February 16 2012 5:00 AM ET
Some LGBT folks are finding that joining a team of like-minded people can mean more than hitting home runs in a gay softball league. Kiva, a person-to-person microlending organization founded in 2005, is the answer for those more interested in solving problems. Kiva aims to helps low-income individuals help themselves out of poverty by starting or expanding businesses. Most recipients live in developing countries, but many are in hard-hit areas of the United States such as Detroit and New Orleans. The system is simple: You lend $25 or more, select the recipient, track their progress online, and then the money comes back to you. A local microfinance institution distributes the money to the recipient, who has six to 12 months to repay the loan; to date nearly 99% of the funds have been repaid. When they receive payment, many Kivans (as members are called) simply reinvest.
Kiva has several common-interest groups, and GLBT Kivans & Friends is among the fastest growing. That group ranks third in the amount of money lent to small business owners in the history of Kiva. Its 4,200-plus team members have combined to give nearly 52,000 loans since it launched four years ago. Those loans amount to almost $1.5 million in contributions to entrepreneurs around the world.
While the group has only identified one openly gay entrepreneur — "Many of the countries that Kiva operates in provide few rights for LGBT individuals, so most individuals in those countries are closeted," notes its website (Kiva.org) — that doesn't stop the giving.
The recipients are people like Eugenio, a 19-year-old coffee farmer in Peru whose $375 loan helped him hire day laborers and buy sacks of fertilizer, or Jeanett Lynn, a Detroit woman who used a $2,150 loan to buy a computer, legal documents, and training and marketing materials for her small business, which provides personal assistance, concierge, and elder-care services. Often the loans are just a few hundred dollars or even smaller amounts, but in less financially robust countries, that much money can go far.
Click through to see a handful of people around the world that GLBT Kivans and Friends are currently helping.