Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This one's for Margaret

Following the humble instructions from my friend not to purchase a birthday present for her but rather make a donation on her behalf, I obliged. Cuz' that's what friends do. She mentioned something about a website called Kiva and so I checked it out. I'll never forget that night in 2008, for it has changed me ever since.

Kiva's mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. Microfinance at it's finest. According to their website, Kiva was born of the following beliefs:

--People are by nature generous, and will help others if given the opportunity to do so in a transparent, accountable way.
--The poor are highly motivated and can be very successful when given an opportunity.
--By connecting people we can create relationships beyond financial transactions, and build a global community expressing support and encouragement of one another.


I was hooked from the moment I landed on the website. I planned to donate $50 and got to chose from THOUSANDS of "entrepreneurs" all over the world. I began my search and was haunted and moved and saddened by each and every story. But as a mom, my heart broke open when I clicked on Margaret's story.

"Margaret Essiam is a 34 year old mother of three children who lives in Tema, Ghana. Two of her children are in school. Margaret has been selling items like diapers, bedspreads, and baby dresses for the past seven years. She wants to use her new loan to buy more diapers, napkins, bedspreads and to buy containers to secure her products from theft and weather as she peddles them from place to place."

I stared at the picture for a long time. And couldn't help but notice the dusty roads, and the basket of diapers that must be so heavy to carry atop her head, and that sweet little girl she's holding, tugging on her clothes--a feeling I know all too well. She looks like a good mom, doesn't she? I felt a connection with her. I wondered if her daughter sometimes resisted bedtime the way mine did? I wondered if Margaret, like me, couldn't wait for the diaper phase to be over? I wondered if she's a mom who sings to her kids or overly kisses them, like I do mine? Suddenly, miles and culture and financial status disappeared and there we were, simply 2 moms wanting the best for our children.

Instantly, the thought of someone stealing her basket of diapers or rain ruining her inventory was enough motivation for me and I proudly lent Margaret my $50. I often thought about Margaret and prayed that more people would be moved to help her. And you know what? 28 other people felt the same way I did and put their faith in her. I'm happy to report that a mere 9 months later, Margaret fully paid back her $900 loan. Which is so great, especially since the average annual income in Ghana is $2,643! Apparently, with her loan, she was able to take her business to another level. She bought an increased stock of diapers, bed spreads, baby dresses and best of all, she had secured a place in the market to sell her goods.

No more walking. No more carrying. No more door-to-door.

Look at her proud smile. She's so pretty, huh? I'm so thrilled for her and her children and I'm happy to hear that her little girl is now in school. Isn't this concept so amazing? There are so many other stories like hers. And they all have happy endings. In fact, the entrepreneurs have a 98% repayment rate. It's so astonishing that I'm going to type it again. In caps.


Now that restores my faith in humanity.

Also, 81% of the loans are to women entrepreneurs. Right on! The best part of all is that my original $50 keeps getting lent out. Once the loan is repaid, I could either cash it out or lend it to someone else. In the past two years, I have made 5 different loans---all of which have been paid back. And tonight, I plan to lend even more.

It feels good.

It feels right.

I encourage you to lend to someone. All it takes is 5 minutes for your perspective to be forever changed. Poverty is so unfortunate and so crippling that EVERY LITTLE BIT helps, as proven by amazing organizations like Kiva. Go there. Look at the pictures. Read their stories. Make a difference.

Be a lender.


  1. I love this Gina, thank you for sharing Margaret's story. Inspiring...especially when I am consumed with myself and my own needs just way too much. You are right, being a mom is a universal thing. I have been kicking around the idea of doing something like this instead of the traditional Christmas gifts this year. We all have so much and I am trying to think beyond just another sweater. Thanks for the information, I will go check it out!

  2. Thanks Megan. I too thought about replacing Xmas presents. I love that you know their story and can track their success. It's such an AMAZING organization. Yay for you!

  3. gina, not sure if i told you this - but is the organization i donated to in honor of mia's first birthday. that fifty dollars has been lent and repaid many times in the last 18 months. what a beautiful blessing.

  4. That's right Tiff! I'm so glad to hear that its getting passed on....

  5. Wonderful post and very interesting!

    sandy toe



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