Monday, November 18, 2013 - The geek way to help the Philippines

On November 8, 2013 a powerful typhoon swept right through the center of the Philippines. By current count, it left 1.9 million people homeless and killed over 3,000, and the international community is enabling professional non-profits like Doctors without Borders, Shelterbox or the Red Cross to provide disaster relief and emergency response via donations. But once immediate survival is taken care of, it is really hard for someone on the other side of the globe to give a supporting hand.

Unless you are a lender on Kiva attempts to fix the bug in the saying "Teach a man to fish ...". The people in the Philippines who lost everything, do know how to "fish". What they are missing though is boats, nets, buckets, fishing poles, bait, coolers, knives ... in short they need capital and assets to not only fish to eat, but to earn enough additional money to rebuild their homes and lives, and send their kids back to school.

So how does Kiva help? Kiva is a micro-lending platform that allows anyone anywhere to loan amounts as small as $25 directly to another person. Launched in 2005 with loans to 7 farmers in Uganda, it quickly grew to fame. In 2007 the founders were featured on the Ophra Show in a special segment with Bill Clinton on "How to make a difference". TIME magazine named Kiva one of the "Best 50 Websites of 2008", and Charity Navigator gave Kiva its highest ratings. Today, more than 1 million lenders have made a loan through the Kiva website.

So in a few weeks, when the news teams have left Cebu, but the reconstruction is just starting, we will be lending to the fishermen and food cart vendors and retail shop owners that have lost everything in the storm. We hope you will, too.

To geek out your experience on Kiva, I'd suggest you join a team. My favorite team are the Nerdfighters, one of the top 10 lending teams. They pick a theme each month and try to join loans fitting that theme. In October, they honored Malala Yousafzai by focusing on loans supporting education for girls. This month, they are celebrating the 50th Birthday of Dr. Who, by unearthing loans with Tardis-blue items, phone booths, screwdrivers or similar items visible in the picture. Just because you are helping others, this does not mean you are not allowed to have fun!

And here three of my personal favorite loans so far:

A family in Mexico purchasing a solar home lighting system, so their children can do home work in proper lighting, and they can save money on candles.

A group of female peanut farmers in Mali, a country with one of the lowest per capita income in the world.

A loan to an elder from Thailand to start a hammock weaving business. "Kue has faced challenges as she grows older in a changing society. Hard work is an important Hmong value - everyone is expected to contribute to the family, from their childhood to old age. Traditionally, less physically demanding jobs were reserved for elders. Older women would cook and make clothing while young adults worked in the fields. Now that factory-made textiles and food have replaced the homemade, Kue and many elders face a quandary. Many of them go out and work in the backbreaking fields to try to bring value to their families and maintain their dignity, often falling into debt-slavery as a result.

For Kue, hammock weaving is a way to maintain her pride and self-worth. She feels confident in her ability to contribute to her family and tribe without taxing her health. This loan will help Kue plan her workload for the coming year and ensure that she maintains her independence."

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