Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Helping others help themselves – Show us the money!

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Happy New Year everyone!   I am fascinated by the amount of articles I have read over the past few weeks about resolutions, that somehow 2013 is going to be THE YEAR WE STICK TO OUR RESOLUTIONS.   Yet we hear this every year!   So in turning over a new leaf for the Shox’s, what we have been doing is a bit of a stocktake about what is important for us, and how we best follow our passion(s).   For us, that includes helping others.   But how do we go about helping others?   This takes a myriad of forms, and the answer is different for everyone, even if the goal is the same.   Some people are time poor, yet are able to dig into their pocketbook and assist others by providing some financial assistance.   A wonderful, and worthy thing to do.

Small change for some!

Small change for some! But for others, this can be life changing.

If this is you, can we suggest an organisation that you may (or may not!) be familiar with – Kiva.   We are big fans of Kiva, because it is all about helping others lift themselves out of poverty through the use of small loans.   Yes it is micro finance, and it works!   Kiva has been around since 2005 and since that time has lent over $392 million dollars to over 875,000 people.    Impressive figures.  But what makes it even better is that they have a 99% success rate on repayments.   The website is great – you can look at a variety of investment opportunities (ie: people!) by searching by gender, by country, by type of business people have, etc…   And for as little as $25, you can help someone get on their way to helping themselves.

Altantuya, a small business woman in Mongolia

Altantuya, a small business woman in Mongolia

We have a number of small  investments, and it is always with excitement when I see an e-mail from Kiva in my inbox, advising “You’ve received X repayments!”.    It is a sign that the system works.   And it is humbling.   In my last email, one of the women I had lent to (Altantuya who lives in Mongolia), had provided her first repayment.   It was for the sum of 69 cents.   Yes, that’s right.   She was able to repay back 2.76% of the original loan amount of $25.00.   And let me tell you, that made me feel great.   Such small amounts to some people are truly life changing amounts for others.

Once loans have been paid back, you have the options of taking back your original investment, or else re-investing it with others.   So through the great multiplier effect, a comparatively small initial amount can keep working to help others over time.   Try it!  We think you’ll like it!

The above example is great for people who are time poor, but want to help.   But for others, they may have time on their hands, or they may be employed in the development sector, making a career out of helping others!   What can we offer these people?   Well, another recent post that was brought to my attention by a former colleague in Ghana (thank you, Tanko, if you are reading this!), was the concept of “helping others” by “shutting up, and listening!”.     Great advice!   So many people think they have all the answers for others, but never stop to consider what it is that people need help with.   No question – the best person to be able to tell you what they need – is that person themselves!    You can listen to a TED talk here that explores this idea in more depth.   It is 15 minutes in length, so have a cuppa and a listen when you want to be inspired.

So while we are on a bit of a roll, I also wanted to share a link with you about a great idea that builds on the concept that THE PEOPLE who we want to “help” are in the best position to know what they need.   In this case, the idea is simple:  Give them money!   We’re not talking about vast sums of capital here – we are talking about small, life changing amounts (similar to micro finance amounts) that can best be directed according to people’s needs.  Again, not a panacea for all the wrongs out there, but another innovative, out of the box idea to work towards a more equal society for all.


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