New Forms of Giving

I'm not 100% sure if I've shared this little detail, but while I was in Sudan, I was actually working in development aid/relief, humanitarian assistance or whatever else you want to call it. I also received a Master's in International Development a few years ago in D.C. So I guess this has been my 'career' for the last few years although I've definitely strayed off the road (did the whole 'Corporate America' thing in New York for about a year and a half).

Now I have a LOT of issues with my 'business' and have often felt so disgusted that I've just wanted to become a lodge owner/manager or interior designer instead of staying on my chosen path. BUT, whatever qualms I have (and boy are they many), they usually get displaced when I see a project that's really changing someone's life and allowing them to become independent. One organization I partnered with give $2,500 loans to small groups in Sudan to start small projects such as goat herding, tailoring, and fish ponds. Every time I spoke to group members, I was so impressed by how much they were able to accomplish with such little (huge as far as they are concerned) funds. It just convinces me more and more that micro-lending, instead of huge donor funded projects may be a more effective way to help people get out of poverty. Unfortunately, I still feel that there is a huge disconnect between citizens who can afford to give just a little and those in desperate need, whether throughout Africa or elsewhere in the world (including within the U.S. as there are definitely plenty of people here who could use a little assistance).

A few months ago I wrote about The Smile Train, and today I'm glad to be able to tell you about two websites that make giving so much easier.

First there is Global Giving which has a new 'green' feature that I particularly like. You can go to their website, identify a 'green' community project that you would like to support, enter the amount you are willing to give, and that's IT. You then get regular updates about the progress of each project that you are supporting. For example you can support a project that provides solar panels and installation for low-income families in California which helps them reduce their energy bill or another that works to provide clean drinking water for 600 families and reforestation in Haiti.

The second site is Kiva which links entrepreneurs in developing countries to those with a few dollars to spare abroad. What happens is that you pick a country or type of business you want to support and they provide you all these options of entrepreneurs. You can lend as little as $20, you agree on the time frame for repayment, and then get updates on the project progress.

I love this idea of giving directly to the person or community in need and both sites. Anyway, just to update you, The Smile Train was even kind enough to send a picture of the cute little kid that my and Faty's money to help. I'll let you know how my funds to Global Giving and Kiva work out!


Tamara said...

Hi! I enjoy reading your blog. Are you going to stay in the field of International Development? What were some of your main problems?

I'm getting a Sociology Masters, and I'm interested in working with other cultures; but I'm not sure in what specific capacity.

Alex said...

Hi Brandie,

Greetings from Smile Train. Thanks for continuing to talk about us in your blogs. Since your last posting, our total number of surgeries have risen to over 330,000 since 1999! And we have just added some new projects to our Global Giving page, and posted updated project summaries for the current projects we have in India and China.

It sounds like you continue to do great work around the world, especially with your organization in Sudan. What are you up to now? We are inspired to hear these wonderful stories, and I hope you stay in touch.

Best of luck, and keep reading about us at www.smiletrain.org.

Alex Judd
Donor Relations Associate

Ali la Loca said...

Brandie - I agree, small-scale lending is the way to go. By far the largest development impact we've had here in Moz has been financing a car for a very responsible, honest, punctual taxi driver who was being paid less than $80/month by his previous employer (who owned his taxi and let him "rent" it for use at work). The taxi driver is now his own boss, and he makes nearly 9 times what his previous employer payed him!

Best of luck with your next job - it will come along, maybe in an unexpected place. :)