About a week ago, my wife, Grainne, and I did something a little crazy. We loaned $1,025 to a complete stranger. I was on the Kiva website choosing someone to loan money to and found this gentleman $1,025 short of his $1,475 goal for purchasing livestock. Ivan's loan had 9 minutes left to fund or it would be closed, and he would get nothing.
Tired of reading? Help someone help themselves now.
We've been doing micro loans via Kiva since 2008. Most of our loans have gone to individual women or women based co-ops. I think we've unconsciously discriminated against men a bit. It's easy to think of men as not needing or being worthy of help. As a society, we've come to expect men to be independent and question their work ethic if they need help.
Then, something dawned on me. If Ivan didn't get the loan he needed to fund his entrerpreneurial goal, what would happen to him? How would he survive? Would he find resources and assitance in his own country to get by? Would he go hungry? Would he resort to participating in the drug trade? Would he make the dangerous trek north to the United States? Would he become another of the hundreds that die in the U.S. or Mexican deserts as he struggled to get to America? Would a picture of him drowned in the Rio Grande become the latest internet outrage?
So, I made the rash decision to fund the rest of his loan to do our small part in solving the immigration crisis. I also decided to take action and convince my colleagues on Twitter to work together to improve the lives of others.
A Challenge to Solve the Immigration Problem
Grainne and I are pledging to have a running balance of $5,00 in active micro loans via Kiva. We are currently at $1,583 and will add $125 in additional funds each month until we reach that balance. I'm also starting a challenge to get 500 of my followers on Twitter to pledge $1,000 in active micro loans.
Imagine if 500 of you take action and commit to $1,000 in active loans in the Central America/Latin America (CALA) region! That would be $500,000 helping people create new businesses, generate income, or attend a nursing training program. Since most loans repay about every 6 months, that would be $1,000,000 dollars per year helping families stay in their home country because they are safe, healthy, happy, and productive.
Politics Is Not The Solution
For decades, the immigration debate has roiled in the U.S. For decades, we haven't done anything besides exacerbate the issue. Our politicians are too entrenched in their ideologies to work together to solve the problem. Our citizens are too blinded to any opinion that doesn't fit their own narrative.
America should be 100% open borders. It's inhumane for the Republicans to stop immigration.
We don't want those illegals in our country. They're all a bunch of criminals.
The socialist democrats only want unlimited immigration so they'll vote democratic in the future, and then they can push their progressive agenda.
This is a manufactured crisis.
IMPORTANT: These are not my personal beliefs. I'm just paraphrasing common sentiment about this topic found online.
We're "tweeting" and "liking" that kind of garbage thinking it's doing some good. However, all this political bickering is just fueling the fire and forcing people to double down on their viewpoints instead of actually helping the people we profess to have compassion for.
Aren't you sick of it all?
Instead of retweeting that story about President Trump, lend a hand to someone. You'll feel better about yourself.
The next time, you're going to like a Facebook post that derides Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, do something real to solve the problem. You'll be a better person for it.
My goal is to create an apolitical solution to the immigration crisis. Whether you're a conservative, liberal, Democrat, or Republican, you have to see that there is a problem. There are hundreds of thousands of people leaving their home countries each year because they are hungry, scared, and have no hope. You can't blame them for trying to get to America. You can't blame them for trying to feed their children or support their families.
You can help solve the problem. By loaning on Kiva, you can help people:
- Buy a flat sewing machine and to buy fabric and other supplies for dressmaking
- Build a sanitary toilet for a community
- Open a business selling kitchenware
- Buy dairy cattle to raise
- Buy more fish and ingredients that will be used to bake bread to sell
Loans Not Handouts
When you loan money via Kiva, you are not donating to a charity. You are not giving a handout. You've of course heard the saying:
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."
With micro loans, you're giving someone the opportunity to make a livelihood. You're giving them the chance to start a business that will increase the economic vitality in their region.
Everyone knows that the strength of the American economy comes from small businesses. By helping entrepreneurs in Central and Latin America, you can help build their local economies in the same way. By helping one person, you'll be helping many others by extension.
A young woman receiving a loan to sew dresses will need someone to help sell them. She'll need a local supplier for the fabric. A gentleman that receives a loan to increase the size of his herd might hire a young person to help him tend them.
Each person you help on Kiva has the potential to help others around them. Now, instead of complaining about Politician X on Twitter, you can directly help someone help themselves.
Ready to Help? Start a loan now.
He Who Saves One Life Saves the Entire World
Despite debates about the exact quote and its origins,
He Who Saves One Life Saves the Entire World
is very apt in this discussion. By helping one person, you literally are helping the world.
If you believe in keeping immigrants out of "concentration camps", help them be safe, healthy, and productive in their home country. You'll be helping others by extension.
If you believe America can't take any more immigrants and that they're ruining our country, do something to keep them from coming.
Quite simply, your viewpoint on the topic doesn't matter. Whether you hold mainstream, leftist, right wing, radical, or downright vile views, nothing is stopping you from taking positive action to get the result you want. Instead of adding to the political discord, get off your butt and do something that actually solves the problem.
Virtue Signaling Is Not Solving a Problem
The interwebs are full of people talking about privilege. They are males, females, whites, and people of color. They come from many walks of life. You name it, someone is talking about how guilty they are of it.
What good is all that really doing? Yes, there is some value in raising awareness of a topic. However, I don't believe it has much real world impact and is even used in many cases to prop up the person confessing to it.
I'm such a bad person! Look at me! I'm so good because I recognize my privilege!
Instead of just lamenting your privilege, why don't you DO something about it?
- Have you not given women candidates a fair opportunity at your company? Redeem yourself by helping a female entrepreneur in an impoverished nation.
- Too few people of color in your social circle? Lend a hand to someone from Guatemala.
- Born with a silver spoon in your mouth? Help someone put food in their mouth.
- Just an average white person that thinks you're only where you're at because of your social circumstance? Fund the next Elon Musk of Central America
30 Percenters to the Rescue!
Have you complained about income inequality on Twitter or Facebook? Have you retweeted about wealth distribution? 1 Percenters got your goat?
Guess what? Compared to someone making just hundreds or maybe a few thousand dollars per year, you're pretty darn rich too. In the U.S. alone, about 30% of households are making between $75,000 and $200,000 dollars per year. Most everyone I follow on Twitter is probably in that bracket. The CEO of Lambda School frequently tweets about students that were making minimum wage suddenly earning six figures.
Imagine how that feels to someone living in a cardboard cottage. Imagine your outrage about the 1 Percenters compared to someone that can't get enough food for their kids to eat.
My point is not to shame you here. There is income inequality. There is a problem with wealth distribution. News flash! There always has been. Ever hear of the feudal system?
My point is that complaining about it solves nothing. Action is better than words. If you believe that the 1 Percenters have some responsibility to solve income inequality, then don't you as well? If you're earning $75,000, my suggested goal of $1,000 in micro loans is just 1.3% of your income. I'm not asking you to give it away. I'm suggesting you leverage it to solve the income inequality problem in Latin and Central America.
Do you buy a froo froo beverage every day before work?
$5 * 5 days per week * 50 weeks per year = $1,250
That could go a long ways toward improving someone's life. Think of your waistline!
Imagine if us 30 Percenters all did our little part to improve the world, without it really costing us a dime. Remember, these are loans, not handouts.
Doing Your Part
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
applies here as well. If you're working in the technology sector, there is no doubt your tide has risen. We live in comparative mansions, walk around with super computers in our pockets, and drive flashy cars that cost as much as houses. Quite simply, we're all very prosperous. Guess what?
Stop Crowdsourcing and Start Crowd Loaning
Got an itch for the latest tech gadget? Need yet another tech marvel to make your life marginally easier?
Every day or week(anyone have a source?), millions of dollars are poured into crowd funding sites. Most of these are for gadgets that will have limited value and become obsolete within a few years at best and a few months at worst. Yet, on Twitter and Facebook, we rail about climate change, pollution, and plastics working their way into our food sources. We are hypocrites.
Instead of wasting our money on yet another toy, why don't we do something positive for the world? Instead of buying something to save us 5 minutes a day, give a loan to help someone feed themselves.
The Loan is Mightier Than the Wall
I don't care about your opinions on "The Wall". You might think it's critical to solving the immigration crisis. You might think it's a complete waste of money. Spending billions of dollars may or may not solve the problem. We might not know the answer for decades. Again, it doesn't matter. What matters is action - now.
What if instead, we didn't need a wall? What if we created a world where income inequality was not so great that people didn't feel compelled to risk their lives to get to the United States? What if, through your actions (not words), we made Central and Latin America safe and prosperous so that families could live their lives in their home countries?
What if we start a new slogan, "Make Central America Great Again!". Then, instead of just chanting it, we actually make it happen?
With Kiva and micro loans, we can actually achieve this on a small scale every day. Every loan you give is an opportunity for one more person to stay where they are and make a better life for themselves. Instead of someone joining the drug trade, they can feed their family, thanks to a loan you provided. Instead of women being trafficked on the route to the border, your loan gives them the dignity and safety to ensure they can feed their family and produce an income.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Lots of people talk about solving a problem. I'm asking you to prove you're doing your part to actually solve the problem.
I've started a "Team" on Kiva. It's very creatively named, "Immigration Crisis Solutions". If you have suggestions for a better name, let me know. I've made a small loan via the team to get the ball rolling. I'm asking each of you to join our team. This will help track the progress we're making collectively. Team stats will show how many members there are, the number of loans funded, and our economic impact.
I truly do believe we can solve this problem together. By taking action instead of just spouting opinions, we can improve people's lives and solve this immigration crisis with compassion.
If a $1,000 commitment is too much for you, I completely understand. Make it $500, $250, $50 - whatever works for you and your family. Every little bit helps. Your $25 loan might keep someone from missing out on their $500 loan request.
Remember, these are loans - not charitable contributions. If you ever find yourself in a bind and need the money, you can withdraw the funds as they are paid back. Sure, they won't be available immediately, but you will get them back.
You could consider Kiva your "no yield 401K". You won't be earning any interest on it, but you'll be making the world a better place. When you need the funds, just stop making new loans and make your withdrawals as needed.
NOTE : In 11 years and after 37 loans, we've never had a loan default. You truly are helping people support themselves and most will pay you back.
I'm not asking you to do something we aren't already doing. Here is proof of our activity on Kiva. I'm not actually very proud of these stats. We've been on Kiva for nearly 11 years and have only had an economic impact of $3,050. Our new goal of a minimum of $5,000 in active loans perpetually should improve these numbers dramatically.
No One Else Will Fix This
If you're waiting for someone else to solve this problem, you're going to be waiting a long time. Our politicians won't fix it. Immigrants won't just magically stop coming. Kids won't suddenly become experts at surviving in the desert.
If this issue is going to be solved, it starts with you taking action and spreading the word. If, for whatever reason, you believe there is an immigration crisis, be part of the solution.
UPDATE: December 14, 2019
After writing this post, we setup a subscription deposit of $125 per month to reach our $5,000 goal. We've also done several large loans as finances allowed. Here's the current status of our funding efforts:
Sadly, literally no one has participated in the group Immigration Crisis Solutions nor created loans via our personal invitation link. We'd be very grateful if you could participate or spread the word.
UPDATE: June 22, 2020
We've finally done it! We reached our goal of having $5,000 deposited into Kiva and loaned out to businesses in the CALA region. Since posting this article in July 2019, we've increased our total deposits by $3,525 and increased our total historical loans from 37 to 67.
We've also decided to continue our monthly deposits of $125 to support entrepreneurs in CALA. In addition, we've decided to start an additional $125/mo deposit to support U.S. black owned business.
You can join us in reducing poverty and income inequality: https://www.kiva.org/invitedby/jgnoel