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Marist Alumis make difference through micro-lending

By Anto Martinovic
On September 20, 2012

 

The concept of micro-lending is a relatively new one. It was developed by banker and economist Muhammad Yunus in the late 1970s when he realized that small loans to people who do not qualify for regular bank loans make a disproportionate difference. Yunus developed the idea until it eventually grew into Grameen Bank and a Nobel Peace Prize. Today, Kiva.org has taken this idea and, using the internet, is crowdsourcing the lending of money to a tune of $350 million dollars since 2005. Through a group on Kiva.org, members of the Marist community are helping people better their lives by helping them grow their small businesses.

            With the increased ability to directly connect with borrowers around the world, more and more people are lending to small business owners in need of loans. When Kiva added a team feature as a beta feature in 2008, Chris Buccella, a Marist alum, started the Marist team. Buccella read an article about Kiva in BusinessWeek and became a lender. Having graduated from Marist with degrees in economics and IT, an internet microfinance platform was a natural fit for Buccella.

            According to Buccella, the team is small and informal as of right now. They are focusing efforts on men and women in Eastern Europe, with many of the loans being focused on the agricultural sector.

"Members lend to entrepreneurs based upon their own preferences, loan recipients occasionally post updates via the website," Buccella said. "Personally, I have met two borrowers, and have also visited one of the cities in Peru where I have made loans."

            Another recent Marist graduate, Tim Feltman, is also part of the team. He got his start after initially being interested in micro-financing. After watching a video of Bill Clinton explaining the idea behind Kiva, he made his first loan to the organization.

"After that first loan I started loaning more money," Feltman said. "I loan because of the impact it does. It not only helps individuals economically, it helps empower individuals to better their lives," says Feltman.

When asked about any particular success stories that stand out to him, Feltman mentioned a woman he met in México.

"There was this one woman who was able to start a grocery store in her house with a micro loan even though her husband was against doing this," Feltman said. "She took out another micro loan to expand her business. Her husband lost his job so he ended up helping with the small business his wife started. Not only did the funds help the small business she created, it helped her to become more independent."

This is the heart of Kiva's mission. Kiva describes itself as a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.

According to Feltman, this idea seems to be working.

"I have seen the impact that micro loans do to empower and help individuals reach the first rung of the economic ladder," he said.

As of Sept. 14, the Marist team has loaned a total of $11,750. Buccella proudly mentioned that the Marist team is beating the Sienna lending team by a lot.

Joining the Marist team is free and very simple. Interested parties should search for "Marist" on the Kiva website and click the "Join Team" button in the communities section.

For more information and stories, check out the Kiva's website at Kiva.org. There is also a great TED talk by Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva about the inspiration behind it all, and Bill Clinton's interview, in which he explains Kiva. 


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