Guest Post: Teaching about Philanthropy

Today we have a special guest blogger, Lindsay. In this post Lindsay tells us how she is teaching her daughter how to make a difference. Take a look at the good they're doing:

On Mother’s Day last year, my sister-in-law sent me a “Kiva Card.” I’d heard of Kiva before; I knew it was a micro-lending website that facilitates crowdfunded loans to low-income entrepreneurs across the globe. But I didn’t know much about how it actually worked or whether it was a trustworthy place to invest my funds. Quite serendipitously my library’s new book club pick of The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time was announced right afterward, and I quickly got a crash course in Kiva lending.

The first loan I made, courtesy of my sister-in-law’s $25 Kiva Card, I chose to send to a group of women running a food market in Sierra Leone. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to target some of the poorest countries in the world, but beyond that, it was a mostly random choice after scrolling through some loan requests while my 5-year-old daughter was asleep.

It only hit me the next week what a learning opportunity I had missed! I’m always fretting about the comfortable “bubble” my daughter is growing up in and how to help her understand the extremely fortunate circumstances she lives in compared to many in the world, and here was a concrete (albeit distant) way to both educate and serve. The next time she received a little bit of holiday money, I encouraged her to save a little out and we hopped onto Kiva together to choose our next $25 loan.

Addison liked my idea of choosing some of the poorest countries in the world, but she liked the idea of choosing women dressed in beautiful, colorful fabrics even better. “They’re so pretty!” she often exclaims while combing through the pages of African women. In that vein, her first choice was the Baghagha Group from Senegal.

Unfortunately, their loan expired before it was fully funded (which doesn’t mean that they didn’t get funding via their local microfinance agency, but all Kiva lenders had their loans returned). As we searched for a new beneficiary, we stumbled on Kura in Kenya, a widow with 10 children.

When my brand-new, enthusiastic kindergartener heard that only 2 of her 10 children attended school, her heart-strings were pulled. Reading through Kura’s summary statement prompted discussion on what it would be like to live without electricity, running water, or the opportunity to go to school. Even now, almost 4 months after we first loaned, Addison sometimes remembers with shock, “She only had 2 in school! Out of 10! I hope she has more than that in school now. Because we donated a lot of money to her, didn’t we?” It made an impression.

Since making our initial loans, we’ve done an even more targeted search to determine the single poorest country (according to Kiva’s metrics) with open loans. The maps and income estimates are some of my favorite website features.

When I first told Addison that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the average income is only $700 per year, she dropped her jaw and yelled, “That’s a LOT!” I’ve spent the proceeding months trying different tactics to help her understand how little that actually is:

  • “Our annual income is more than 38 times the average in the DRC.”
  • “Even at 5 years old, you have $200 sitting in a college account. You have almost a third of the money that a family earns in a whole year just sitting in your account for the future.”
  • “We spend $700 on groceries in just 3 months of the year. They have to make that last for 12 months.”

She still hasn’t completely grasped it; after all, when you’re 5 and “money” is a collection of pennies in your piggy bank, $700 sounds like an enormous sum. Still, she agreed that we should make our future loans in the DRC because “they hardly make any money.”

We made our most recent loan in honor of International Women’s Day, although we’ve always gravitated toward lending to women with children anyway. A few days later, Addison ended her morning prayer with, “We’re thankful that we have money to buy food. We’re thankful that we can donate money to poor people in other countries that don’t have so much food.”

Thinking of others: check. Knowing she can do something to help: check. Expressing more gratitude for things she’s previously taken for granted: check. Project Kiva: success!

Special thanks to Lindsay for sharing her sweet story! To read more from Lindsay, visit her blog at