It's been 1 year since Kiva introduced team lending. Kiva.org is an American non-profit organization committed "to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty."
I've been a lender with Kiva ever since I saw Bill Clinton, on Oprah, speaking about how individuals can help relieve poverty. I've had many conversations with friends about whether or not there is a responsibility for middle class people in the developed world to help out, over and above what our governments give out in foreign aid, those suffering from poverty in the developing world. The tricky issue for me was if giving handouts really promotes long term societal improvements or if those handouts are just horded by a few and used to take further advantage of the poor. Also, I'd rather teach a person to fish... And that's why Kiva is so appealing. Instead of giving people welfare and the reduction in self-esteem that comes with it; you are giving people trust and the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves and their family.
Since joining Kiva I've read up on Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer of the micro-finance industry, and the amazing work he has done in Bangladesh. There has been real tangible results in Bangladesh and I'm convinced his ideas can make a real difference in ending world poverty.
I first heard about team lending on KivaFriends.org, a forum managed by Kiva lenders. It's the premier place to discuss everything Kiva related. I immediately thought it was a cool idea and went to look for an atheist team. There was none! So I decided to start one and a corresponding blog to spread the message. I called our team "Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious". I did this because I understand that those of us who do not adhere to any religion generally do not like to be labeled; and moreover we would never be able to agree on a single label. Richard Dawkins suggestion of "Brights" is an appealing label and idea but it still hasn't caught on. Without an inclusive group we ran the risk of splintering into a half-dozen small groups and no-one would notice our impact. Many people are not aware that our worldview is the third largest in the world behind Christians and Muslims and slightly ahead of Hindus. It's time to let our collective voice be heard!
Immediately people started joining the team. I set our first goal to raise $50,000 in loans in four months. Within the first ten days we raised $10,000 in loans. I realized at that point that collectively we could accomplish a lot more than I had predicted. One other thing I realized was just how many non-religious people were hiding in the woods only to come out when there was an appropriate place to lounge at Kiva. I guess when you know there's no superman coming to save humanity and you reflect on how closely related all humans are, you get a feeling that the more you contribute to the world the better it will be.
Immediately a community atmosphere began to form with active and interesting discussions. One of our more active members suggested we do a Halloween Loan-A-Thon which immediately caught on among other members. Our Loan-A-Thons are a way to challenge each other to deposit new money into the Kiva system and loan more then we otherwise would. We have 4 annual Loan-A-Thons; Halloween, New Years, April Fools and Yunus' birthday.
One year later and we have almost raised one million in loans. We are the largest team on Kiva and we've busted the myth that atheists don't participate in altruistic endeavors.
It's been a fun year... Our first real competition was kivafriends.org who were first out the gate with a big team. By December 2008 we were in competition with the Christian team and the Obama team and shortly there after we became the biggest loaning team and have kept that honor ever since. I want to congratulate everyone on the team for contributing to a wildly successful year! I'd also like to welcome anyone who is just hearing about Kiva to sign up and join the fun!
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