Kiva LogoThis weekend, thanks to a promotion from the Milepoint website, I’ve knocked off another item on my bucket list. Kiva is a micro-lending charity that gives loans to entrepreneurs in second and third-world countries so that they can build a business and improve their lives and communities. I like this concept because it’s a hand up, not a handout. It doesn’t involve a charity showing up and trying to fix all of a community’s problems for them. Instead it creates real changes by encouraging community members to find and develop solutions to their problems.

Kiva works by taking loans in $25 denominations from people through their website and giving them to entrepreneurs. Lenders can go through and read up information about each business before making a loan. Once the full amount of the loan is met, the entrepreneur uses the money to start or expand their business and repays the loan over time. The lenders get repaid and they can then either roll the money into another loan, donate the money to Kiva or have the money transferred to a Paypal account.

So far, Kiva has been pretty successful. Over 98% of loans get repaid through their program. It’s not a perfect program- some loans do default and some lenders may not get the full loan amount due to things like currency fluctuations. The program has also received criticism over issues like high interest rates. But even with the flaws, it seems to be doing more good then harm.

While loaning to Kiva has been on my list for a while now, what gave me the nudge to loan was a promotion through the new Milepoint website for frequent flyers. They were trying to get their members to support Kiva by giving $25 in Kiva credit for the first 200 members to make a new loan through the Milepoint team. I’ve never seen a offer like that before, so I jumped on it.

I chose my first loan almost at random- I just looked for a female entrepreneur whose loan was about to expire (loans have 30 days to get fully funded on the site). So I ended up funding a loan for a woman in Armenia who wanted to expand her shoe-selling business. The match from Milepoint came almost immediately. I then noticed that I could sort potential loans by country. So I picked the remaining loans by choosing countries I’ve been to before (Mexico, Peru and Kenya).

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the loans. If everything goes well, this could be a great way for me to give back in a small way to the places I’ve visited.