Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lunch with Gov. Huntsman vs. microlending -- decisions, decisions...

Blogging is a great creative outlet. One can rant, express opinions, or (occasionally) educate. One can also lose perspective. A couple of days ago, for example, one of us heard something on the radio about an auction for Special Olympics. "Win a lunch with Governor Jon Huntsman!" the commercial said.

Hmm...lunch with Governor Huntsman? "I could get [so-and-so] to bid on it and go along as the second person at the lunch," I schemed. "Then I can ask him all these questions that have been building up and post it on the blog." (I did plan on disclosing that I'm a blogger, just not my name.) Accordingly, I surfed over to the auction, which ends tomorrow. At the time, the bid was $250. (It's now $280.) "Maybe I could get this for $300," I mused, already thinking up some mild interrogation. With a finger poised on the Send button, one of those annoying epiphanies suddenly struck. "What are you doing? Do you know what that $300 could do in a third world country?"

Yes, I am hooked on microlending. $100 would close out this woman's loan request, so that she can buy charcoal to sell in her village in Ghana.

$50 was all this guy still needed to make his rice field in Ecuador more productive.

Microlending (making small, high-risk loans to people of limited means in other parts of the world) is all the rage, an early developer of the concept having won the Nobel Peace Prize this year. We first heard about one of the microlending agencies, Kiva.org, a few months ago on PBS. It was fascinating, the process by which borrowers are screened, and the impact that these small loans (by U.S. standards) can make. "Maybe this will help the impression that the rest of the world has of Americans," we thought.

We weren't the only ones who had that hope, evidently. Loan requests on Kiva by Iraqis -- their identities carefully concealed -- and Afghans are filled early.

Hearing that as little as $25 could help change someone's life, I surfed over to Kiva.org and started reading borrowers' profiles. It may be unPC to say this, but it was fun, like browsing at a Radio Shack (office supply store for you, VoU2). Female or male borrowers? Asia, Central America, Africa? What will the money be used for?

These loans are deemed high risk, so I would just think of it as a donation and be pleasantly surprised if I ever saw any of it back, I thought. But within two months, notices of partial repayments started arriving. Wow.

Don't get me wrong; giving to the Special Olympics is a worthy cause, and lunch with the Govster would be interesting. But there's just something enticing about making an effort, albeit small, to undo some of the damage that George Bush has caused us throughout the non-Albanian globe. As for the blog, guess we'll just have to find something else to write about...

2 comments:

Jesse Harris said...

There's also a market for US microloans, though, ironically, the third-world borrowers are more likely to actually pay you back.

Voice of Utah said...

I didn't know that. The U.S. angle is appealing, and it would be nice to have a mix. I wonder what the higher default rate says about us...