Technology has been connecting families for generations. The invention of the phone let us hear voices of loved ones far away, and the creation of the Internet helped us to see them. Today, those same technologies that we've used to bring our families closer together are helping us to connect with and support families who are worlds apart. In doing so, the very concept and experience of 'gifting' and philanthropy is being transformed.
For example, lending may not have fit into the philanthropy category in the past. Now, however, lending lets people go beyond traditional giving by using new technologies. The concept has grown dramatically through organizations like Kiva, which enables anyone with an Internet connection and $25 to make a micro-loan to one of thousands of low-income entrepreneurs in more than 65 countries, including the United States. Just go to www.kiva.org to find a borrower to whom you can lend $25 - it might be a mother in Uganda selling solar lights to pay for her children's school supplies, a woman in Mongolia providing yogurt to local schools to help support her family, or a mom in Kenya using her dairy cow profits to help further her schooling.
You have an opportunity to make a big difference for women, families and communities - beyond traditional giving.
Since 2005, the nonprofit Kiva has been dedicated to alleviating poverty by connecting people through microlending. It has connected more than 900,000 lenders to more than 800,000 women around the world.
Millions of women globally work hard to shape future generations. Many of them do it, however, with close to nothing. Women make up the vast majority of the world's poor. With limited resources, their potential is too often squandered - not only their potential to provide for their families, but also to achieve their dreams, educate their children, model gender equality and more. Consider these eye-opening statistics from Kiva:
* More than 1 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 75 percent of them are women and girls.
* Seventy-six million primary school-age children aren't in school, and 60 percent of them are girls.
* Fifty percent of pregnant women in developing countries lack proper maternal care, resulting in more than 300,000 maternal deaths per year.
But when a woman contributes to her family's income, at least 80 percent of her earnings go toward supporting her family's needs and nurturing her children's potential. A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of five. Each year of additional schooling increases individual earnings by 10 percent.
And, by partnering with organizations that offer maternal health and education services on top of the loans, Kiva helps lenders make an even bigger impact on the lives of women and families.
You can send the special woman in your life a Kiva Card - $25 to lend to any borrower they choose. It's the perfect way for her to connect with causes and places she cares about as she chooses borrowers she would like to support with your gift. Together, Kiva lenders have helped fund more than $420 million in loans. When the borrower repays a loan - and Kiva's repayment rate is a 98.9 percent - your gift card recipient can choose a new borrower, so the cycle of support continues. Visit kiva.org/gifts to find out more about Kiva Cards.
Lending to caretakers - women in particular - has an incredible ripple effect that touches lives across families, communities and the world. Giving women the tools they need to create a brighter future is truly 'the gift that keeps on giving.'
Sometimes, lending time is just as important as lending a dollar. To make volunteering more effective, it's important to match people with the right skills to the right job. The website VolunteerMatch has emerged as a way for volunteers to find positions that match their skills and expertise, and for charities to recruit volunteers. There is no shortage of charities making change in the lives of women and families that can benefit from your volunteerism.
Whether you choose to give your time or money, or make a life-changing loan, it's easier than ever to find ways to help others. Visit www.kiva.org to make a loan or give a woman you love a Kiva Card, giving her a gift that helps families around the world.