Getty Images Ray Manzarek of the legendary rock band The Doors has died at the age…
- Posted on Jul 17th 2007 11:00AM by Steve Hochman
You may have heard of micro-loans: Muhammad Yunus, the guy who pioneered the concept in Bangladesh, won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work through his Grameen Bank. The notion is simple: People trying to establish or support small businesses in the developing world are given loans for small amounts, interest-free. Simple. In fact so simple that once the notion started to get international notice, a lot of regular folks wondered how they could contribute to such efforts. A few enterprising folks in the San Francisco area wondered exactly that and, with a little brainstorming, hit on a way to involve anyone who wanted to participate. Thus was born Kiva.org.
Basically, Kiva is a simple way of connecting individuals wishing to make small loans with people needing them. Kiva works with on-the-ground organizations throughout Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America in particular, with neither Kiva nor its partners taking a cut. The recipients schedule repayment periods, and the collected funds are distributed back to the various investors in each individual business. Again, this is not charity; it's loans that are paid back. And it's person-to-person, with Kiva and its local partners merely serving as the conduits. I first heard about Kiva when its management team (led by co-founder Matt Flannery, who came up with the idea in 2004 while working as a computer programmer at TiVo) was highlighted by CNN in a "heroes" segment. Within minutes, I was registered on the site and had made loans to two people (Akif Hasanov, a small-store owner in Azerbaijan, and Nataliya Koratkova, who sells women's clothes in the Ukraine), as well as kicking in a little extra for the Kiva overhead -- the latter being a tax-deductible donation. All this was done by PayPal, so it really could not have been easier.
More recently, while listening to a Kiva podcast interview with Fiona Ramsey, the organization's community manager, I wondered how I could link up my interest in music with my lending. I e-mailed Ramsey, and she suggested I go to Kivafriends.org, a user-created discussion and information forum, and ask other supporters for suggestions. In the discussion "lounge," I started a topic titled "music loans," asked for ideas, and within half an hour I had a dozen great responses -- this is nothing if not an active community! The responses pointed me to a wealth of Kiva applicants: the Grabas Ballet troupe from Chad, which asked for $1,200 to buy instruments and costumes; Nigerian bandleader Nosa Equaseki, also in need of instruments, requesting just $400; Azerbaijani woman Ofelya Kazimova -- categorized as an Internally Displaced Person, due to having been relocated from Armenian-occupied territory -- who applied to support plans to tutor local children in music; Srey Ham, a Cambodian woman who needed $500 to support her family farm in supplement to the $10 a day her husband earns as a traditional musician; Jessica Almeida, who owns a struggling store in a small Ecuadorian town selling CD and tapes, and so on.
The catch was that all of these and the others referred to by Kiva users were for loans already filled and, in several cases, repaid in part or in full. Music-oriented ventures, it seems, are quite popular among the Kiva crowd, and even at as little as $25 per lender at a time, the modest totals can be reached almost instantly. So if you're determined to connect with the music world this way, just be vigilant as you search the in-need applicants. Or ... you could take a broader view. Any support of imperiled cultures and communities will benefit the music and art they produce. So how about this: You like Southeast Asian music? Support a Vietnamese pig farmer. Central American sounds your taste? Give a loan to a weaver in Ecuador. Own a lot of Fela Kuti and Sunny Ade CDs? Reach out to a Nigerian medical clinic. There's no lack of choices. By the way, the fee for writing this week's column is being turned into Kiva loans. It's not much, by U.S. standards. But that's the beauty of this: It doesn't take much to make a big impact. And given the state of the music business, it's a lot more rewarding than working for a major record company these days.