Skip to Content

Loans That Change Lives: An Introduction to Kiva

This is a guest post by Paul Duan. If you'd like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read the guidelines.

I've found that the more I travel, the more I realize how fortunate I have it. Even in our modern world, many places still lack running water and electricity. There are still places where you'll find kids without shoes playing in garbage lined streets; see dozens of people living in cramped, dark tin shacks; and encounter mothers begging for food. It's a humbling and sobering reminder that there is still a lot of poverty in our world.

But there are ways to help. One of my favorites is Kiva. If you haven't heard of it by now, Kiva is a non-profit microfinance site that connects lenders (you) with entrepreneurs in developing countries. What follows is an introduction to Kiva.

How it Works

Kiva partners with local field partners who have lists of qualified entrepreneurs. As the lender, you choose from these lists and lend to either a person or a group. The field partner disburses the money to the entrepreneur and your loan backfills the field partner. Your money is then paid back over the next several months which can then be re-loaned to other people.

While not exactly peer-to-peer because the loans are pre-disbursed (the money has already been given to the person even before you decide to lend), you still have a choice of where your money is going.

Here are a few things I like about Kiva:

Anyone can do it – By definition, microfinance involves small sums of money. This makes it accessible to pretty much anyone. Most of the loan requests are below $1,000 and are aggregated through many members, resulting in a minimum loan amount of only $25. So for the cost of a nice dinner, you could be changing someone's life.

There's a personal touch to it – Although loans are pre-disbursed, you still get a choice of who to loan to. Kiva has several filters which include gender, sector, country and group vs. individual. Each entry also has a picture and a story which describes who the person is, what they are planning on using the money for and miscellaneous other details. All of this really adds a personal connection. I've found that most of my loans have been to countries where I've visited.

Ease of use, proven track record and low risk – The user interface is very intuitive and funding is through PayPal or credit card. As the largest and most well known microfinance site around, Kiva has a proven track record. Field partners all have ratings for delinquency, default and foreign exchange loss rates; with the majority having little or no losses. You can pretty much expect to get all you've loaned out back.

It costs you nothing – With the tough economy and what not, donations can be difficult. But Kiva is a loan, not a donation. Really, the only thing you'll be losing is some interest. If you do decide to take your money out, there's an option to cash out via PayPal.

You're helping the builders of the world – This is the best thing I like about Kiva. Unlike giving money to a beggar on the street, your money is going towards building businesses and promoting economic growth in countries that need it the most. I think the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” sums it up the best.

There you have it. You've got nothing to lose and you'll be helping someone across the world. So go sign up, make a difference and give the gift that keeps on giving.

Editor's Note:  Once you register for Kiva, be sure to join the Go Backpacking lending team.  Together, our members have made loans totaling $825 this year.


About the Author: UC Berkeley alumni and based in San Francisco, Paul Duan is a cube monkey by day, and aspiring travel writer by night. Life in a Sack was started back in April 2010 as a personal creative outlet and has since grown to become a written record of past backpacking trips and a source for useful backpacking information.  Twitter:

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Tyrell Wineinger

Saturday 30th of October 2010

I was wondering if anyone had any material I could read which uses this style of storytelling. There is no narrative. The whole piece is a recorded conversation between two parties over an extended period of time.

benefits of hybrid cars

Friday 29th of October 2010

Greetings, I was reading something different about this on another blog. Interesting. Your perspective about it is diametrically contradicted from what I read earlier. I'm still pondering over the opposite points of view, but I'm leaning to a large degree toward yours. And irrespective, that's what is so great about modern-day democracy and the marketplace of ideas online.


Friday 29th of October 2010

Since tallying for some time for just a proper read in regards to this sort of niche . Trying in Bing I now spotted this internet site. Look this information So i am pleased to convey that I have a very full impression I stumbled onto whatever I was ready for. I'll make sure to don't forget this internet site and consecrate it a look systematically.


Saturday 9th of October 2010

I can't say enough good things about Kiva. One year, I gave KIVA credits to my staff instead of Christmas presents and collectively we choose 4 people to donate $25 too. That was 4 years ago and since then we've helped out 15 people as once the money is paid back, we kept donating it to another person. I do the same thing with my own donation. It is amazing at how little it takes to make a huge difference in someone else's life! I would highly recommend Kiva to anyone!


Monday 4th of October 2010

Very nice post Paul. I agree with everything you said. When I first started backpacking,I wanted to see new places and have exciting adventures. I found all of that and still enjoy traveling. But travel has opened my eyes to the fact that we westerners have so much compared to many others throughout the world. Kiva is a great way to lend a helping hand to other folks that are hard working but could use a little assistance. Come on everyone, it's easy to help out and you will feel great about it. I think it might just give you some good travel Karma too!

Comments are closed.