If you want to make a difference in the U.S., giving a micro-loan might be one of the most effective methods.
Micro-loans are made from one individual to another, and the Web site Kiva.org is dedicated to facilitating those kinds of loans around the world. The nonprofit company, founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, Calif., connects individual borrowers or "entrepreneurs" with lenders who make direct loans of as little as $25.
To date, more than half-a-million lenders from 185 countries have provided more than $75 million in loans, according to Kiva. Remarkably, the current rate of repayment of those loans is 98.35 percent.
Now Kiva is bringing its successful model to the U.S., where the economic downturn has led to a need for the same kind of funding Kiva has made possible across the globe.
Jeremy: Emergency BBQ
Loan Request: $10,000
Jeremy is a former ambulance driver and a high-energy entrepreneur. He runs Emergency BBQ, a mobile catering company in San Carlos, Calif., that serves up barbecue favorites in a style Jeremy calls California Beer B-Que.
With this loan, Jeremy can expand his business beyond on-the-go catering trucks and open up a retail store in San Carlos. He will be able to cater a greater number of lunch and dinner events from his shop, as well as serve lunch to local workers in San Mateo. He will also be able to create full-time employment for his three seasonal employees.
Amato Loma-Yindja: Village d'Afrique Day Care
Business: Village d'Afrique Day Care|
Loan Request: $6,000
Amato Loma-Yindja, a widowed mother of two, has always loved children and believes her mission in life is to help them. For more than 10 years she worked with disadvantaged children at various nonprofits before being laid off in 2003. She began fostering children and decided to take this effort one step further by opening a day-care in her home in Fremont, Calif. Loma-Yindja hopes to expand her business, but she needs funds to fully convert her home into a day-care with a larger capacity.
"I'm originally from Africa," she said. "I've been in the U.S. for 24 years. I've been a widow for 20 years. So I've raised my children by myself, and being a single parent and to see how hard it is, that's what really motivated me to become a day-care provider to help children."
Without these kinds of loans, she said, "It would be very, very hard to fulfill my dream. So they make it possible."
With a $6,000 loan, Loma-Yindja will be able to carpet her nap area, convert her garage into a playroom and buy art and educational supplies. Currently she has three children in her bilingual French and English day-care, but she hopes the loan will expand her capacity to care for more children.
"I'm very grateful, to begin with, for the opportunity that has been given to me," she said. "It's not just me, it's the children. That's where my heart is."