Students learn importance of microlending

By Alyssa Mentzer
January 28, 2010

When a problem arises many students believe that donating money to a charity is the most effective way to help. However, Cabrini students recently learned that microlending is an alternative way to help people in poor countries become stronger economically.

Students in Dr. Jerry Zurek’s Faces of Justice ECG 200 class were each given $25 to lend to a person or group in need through a microlending Web site called Kiva.

Kiva allows people to lend small sums of money to a person, family or village in another country that needs help starting a business, improving a business or buying the basic necessities for life. Their mission is “to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.”

“I lent my money to Sra. Adriana Gonzalez. She needed the money to buy winter clothes for her business. I wanted to give the money to someone that would help them complete their loan,” Melissa Moore, sophomore history, American studies, political science and secondary education major, said.

The assignment aimed to teach students that there are more significant ways to help people rather than through donations. The students learned that lending money through Kiva is not giving money as a charity or gift. It is a way to loan money that will be

repaid in a certain amount of time. These loans help improve and start businesses.

It also gave students the opportunity to see the faces of those less fortunate. Instead of blindly handing over money, they made more of a connection with the person they were helping.

“I wanted to help students realize that there are other ways besides giving money to help people in poor countries,” Zurek, communication professor and department chairman, said.

Kiva also helped students understand that there are many people in the world that need aid. Whether it is a loan of $25 or a loan of $25,000, it can help lives.

“I think it gives some people a reality check. It helps you understand that it’s not just you and your friends that struggle with money. Using Kiva gave me a better understanding of life in general and how people need our help,” Moore said.

According to Kiva, over 400 colleges and universities have formed lending teams in the United States as well as other countries. Universities like Penn State, Elon, James Madison and Cornell have started microlending clubs with Kiva including students, faculty and alumni.

Utilizing Kiva in the classroom is beneficial to students’ learning. Not only does it teach students the importance of helping others, but it teaches finances on a small scale. Students are able to loan the money and then re-lend that same money to another cause. These loans help people out of poverty through business.

Zurek’s class learned first- hand that they can make a difference and continue to make a difference in the future through Kiva.

“Well everyone knows the old proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Loans through Kiva take that proverb to the next level. These students lent money to help someone improve his fishing business. Now, that’s something,” Zurek said.

Alyssa Mentzer

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