Making a difference

Recently I’ve found two web sites that seem especially helpful in making a real difference – in one’s own life and in other people’s lives. I just wanted to highlight these in case they can help you too, or you’d like to join in. The first has to do with microlending, and the second with personal goal-setting and achievement.

Microlending is a really cool practice that allows people in developing countries to obtain small loans to grow their farming or business, usually repaid within a year or two. Repayment rates are exceptionally high, typically above 95%. Kiva is a microlending website that allows you to personally view each candidate recipient and choose to whom and what kinds of projects you want to lend money. You can also see who else is lending to them, and combine your donations to fund larger loans. Then you get updates as the loan is repaid, and eventually get your money back to keep or loan to another person.

I’ve been wanting to be part of this for a while, so yesterday I contributed the money I made from tarot readings this week to four entrepreneurs at the site. Among my “portfolio” are:

– A woman farming and selling vegetables in Samoa
– A woman who has been working as a street vendor in Merida, Mexico, and is now working on setting up a little shop for food and household goods
– A woman selling vegetables in Kenya
– A man selling shoes in Kenya

All are supporting families and some are working to pay school fees for their children (a particularly worthy goal for girls in Africa). If we’re lucky we’ll get updates on the businesses from the aid organizations or the recipients, but either way we know people are getting the help they need at 0% overhead (Kiva requests additional voluntary donations to cover rent and overhead).

The second site is one that uses the power of the Internet to help people define and achieve personal goals. It’s very simply called 43 Things. On this site you can define up to 43 goals that you have for life, though most people start with many less and fill them in as they go along – I currently have 6.

Instantly, you are hooked up with others that share your goals, and you can read about their progress, their struggles, and their ideas for succeeding. You can also read journal entries from those who have done what you’re hoping to do, what it was like for them and how they did it. You can even use the geographic features to hook up with others and form local groups for whatever you want to do – go walking, practice Spanish, exercise more, whatever.

As you go along, you can create journal entries for your goals to keep track of how you’re doing. The site sends you reminders “from your past self to your future self” on intervals you pre-determine (or not, if you choose). For those who need or want it, you can even set up specific milestones with timetables and consequences :) Others can read your journal entries and cheer you on if they like what you’re doing. Once you’ve accomplished a goal, you can click on “I’ve Done It” and take it off your list – yay!

All in all, it seems more motivational than anything else I’ve seen. It combines the power of a blog with a networking site and tracking features to make it all work together – it can even link to your external blog if you want to – once I figure that out you may be seeing a new “Goals” category on this site :)

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7 thoughts on “Making a difference

  1. Judith B says:

    I can’t do much about Kiva just now, but am going to bookmark it. Meanwhile, I visited 43 Things, and it looks very interesting. I may give that one a try. It’s a little like going to Weight Watchers when you want to diet . . . there is something about “going public” (even if you use a fake name and photo) that encourages the person to put more energy into their goal. Let us know how it works for you, Teresa!

  2. Judith B says:

    Hmm … after ten minutes at 43 Things, the computer in the university lab kicked me off, saying Internet Explorer had encountered some problems and had to close. This afternoon I got no farther than their Home Page before it did the same thing. (Haven’t tried it at home yet.) Has anyone else had this problem?

  3. Hmm I don’t know – the day I was on there I wandered around for quite a while and didn’t encounter any difficulties. Maybe they’re just having a bad day…

  4. Rick says:

    Microloans direct to the people who need them … what a great find, Teresa, and thanks for suggesting it. I just now logged on and made a couple of loans. The site was well organized and easy to use. I join you in recommending it.

  5. Judith B says:

    Just got an answer to my own question: One of the techs at HSU said some programs don’t work with Internet Explorer (surprise/not!), and said I should try it with Firefox (which I think you use, Teresa).

  6. Freesparrow says:

    Teresa, I had an impulse to visit your blog (was reminded of it through a google search for a past lives spread!) and saw the Kiva article.

    Like Rick, the poster preceding me, I made a couple of loans.

    Thank you so much. It is a wonderful suggestion.

  7. Jason says:

    Here is another way to help Kiva
    Use the WTF section on Technorati to raise the profile by voting for the WTF logged there.

    http://www.technorati.com/wtf/kiva

    Then write a blurb also if you want to add more info.

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