Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Congratulations to Kilama George

You've heard me talk about the microlending outfit Kiva (see my earlier posts). The first loan I gave through Kiva has just been completely repaid -- Kilama George. His loan request, as told on the Kiva website, was thus:
[Kilama George] works as a bracelet maker for the Invisible Children Bracelet Project.

He lives with his wife and children in the Acholi quarters. He has been there for five years ,and he came from Pader district he has six children. Before coming to LiA, he worked in the stone quarry with his wife and had a very difficult time supporting his family. His wife still works at the quarry while he works at liA. Together, their incomes now support the family and their lives have improved. However, housing is very poor in the Acholi quarter.

He has acquired a plot of land from the King of Buganda who has sympathy for the people of Acholi. On this land he plans to build a two room house for his family.
The genius of Kiva is that it works through local organizations that guarantee the loan, in this case the Life in Africa foundation working in Uganda. These local organizations provide support, accountability, and encouragement. Life in Africa is a group of people working to help themselves out of the chaos that exists because of civil war in Uganda and Sudan:

Over 85% of our members are people displaced or otherwise directly affected by Northern Uganda's 20 year long war. Together we are joining hands to lift ourselves out of poverty once and for all, and to make an impact for peace in our war-torn community.

We produce and export crafts to make a difference in the world, and promote social action initiatives online. Our unique Webbed Empowerment approach offers global communities of supporters unique ways to connect with our Ugandan community's successes and needs directly.

Life in Africa's WE Centers also offer internet training, a community microfinance program, and adult learning opportunities that are available to active members.

Uganda recently has come on the radar of Americans because of the Invisible Children campaign. For the past 15-20 years, a whole generation of young men have been press ganged to serve in the guerilla militaries -- not men of 18 or 19; we're talking boys as young as 12 and 13 being trained in explosives, hand to hand combat, and other techniques, and then being sent to wreck havoc. Think of it as a nationwide Lord of the Flies type experiement. Many young men have become refugees, wandering about trying to avoid capture by these militia. Because Uganda and Sudan border each other, the same problem is chronicled in the recent film God Grew Tired of Us, as featured recently in National Geographic. The whole region is caught in a devastating cycle of poverty and violence.

While there are many ways to help -- through diplomacy and aid efforts, another great way of helping is by restoring economic stability. Microlending plays to the strength of a local economy by investing in the entrepreneurs who are the pillars of community. I've been praying the Kilama George will be a blessing to all those around him, and that he helps make Uganda a stronger place. The loan goes directly to the entrepreneur, it isn't siphoned off by corrupt warlords. Now imagine what a hundred thousand such small loans can do....

And best of all, I've just been repaid.... so I get to loan my money out again. Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.