A revolutionary idea has made it possible for anyone to help people in Third World countries via the Internet—and it can be addictive! Visitors to Kiva.org can read the story of someone who needs help starting a small business. For as little as $25, they can choose a loan to partially finance—and help lift someone out of poverty in the process. Kiva's thousands of success stories include a peanut butter stand in Uganda, carpet weavers in Afghanistan and a fruit vendor in Vietnam.
Even if their business partners are halfway around the world, lenders can check on the progress of the venture via e-mail. "You feel as if they're family, and you root for them," says Ann Brown, who lent money through Kiva. "You know their names and they become like these little celebrities in your life."
Financing a loan through Kiva gave Ann the chance to help a small business owner in the same way a lender once helped her. Twenty years ago, Ann was a struggling artist who wanted to start a handbag business—but she couldn't afford to buy the materials.
Then Ann got the lifeline she desperately needed—a small loan to get started. Now that her business is thriving, Ann says she wanted to give back. She visited Kiva.org, and decided to help Martiza, a mother of two living in Ecuador who wanted to start a business. Once the loan is paid back, Ann says she can look for someone else to help. "It feels wonderful," she says. "It's the ultimate shopping experience!"