There probably aren’t as many opinions about how to decrease poverty as there are people suffering in poverty, but there are a great many, nonetheless. One idea that has been popular for a couple of decades is that of microcredit, the practice of making small loans available to poor people, often in hopes of allowing them to establish a way of supporting themselves.
It’s possible that there have been as many words written about how well microcredit actually works as there have been dollars lent. I’ve made some loans through Kiva in the past, and have had the impression that such loans have done some good. I read recently about some controversy surrounding the company specifically and the industry in general, and now I’m not sure what to think.
On the one hand, if some good is being done, it’s better than no good, right? On the other hand, if I feel like I’m doing good, and so stop looking for ways to make a real impact, that’s bad. On still another hand, some argue that maybe microlending actually harms poor people. As the King of Siam (or at least Yul Brynner) would say, “Is a puzzlement.”
If you are inclined to test-drive rather than mull over controversy, here’s a link for you. It will give you the opportunity to make a loan using someone else’s $25, to give the process a try (deadline is August 20).*
If you’re in the mood for reading, here’s Kiva, and Wikipedia on Kiva. Google will help you find the controversies. I’d be glad to hear what conclusions you come to. And if you have experience with other ways of doing your bit to make the world a better place, I’d love to hear about them.
*I gather that if you sign up through the link above to make a loan, they also give me the opportunity to make a free loan–but don’t let that influence your choice.
[Yul Brynner image from meredy.com]