A group of about 18 Saint Markans gathered for a supper on August 12th. The rector (me) and Senior Warden and spouses were the hosts, our children and their friends provided extremely efficient and amazingly cheerful help. We ate in the parish hall. The guests were to bring money, whatever they would spend on a night out (and that night out might be at McDonalds or at some amazingly fancy restaurant) and we would pool our money and use it to give microcredit loans through the website Kiva.org. The menu was local food from the Tower Grove Farmers' Market-- Lamb kebabs from Prairie Farms, roasted veggies from Biver Farms, a tomato salad with tomatos from various local vendors and local potatoes with herbs from the Speller garden. The desserts were a raspberry tart with local raspberries and jam from Centennial Farms in Augusta, a plum berry crisp featuring blackberries from Centennial Farms. The wines were not so local, which was probably okay, too... We raised (including a couple of donations from people who loved the idea but could not attend) $550. While dinner was getting ready (and we ate local tomato and Black Bear bakery bruschetta with local goat cheese and another kind of bruschetta from local egg plants) people browsed on the Kiva Website for worthy entrepreneurs. We decided on two -- a farmer in Azerbajan and a woman shop owner in Nigeria. But by the next day, when we had set up a Pay Pal account for the church, these two entrepreneurs had been fully subscribed. So Sue, the treasurer who set up the Paypal account, and I "shopped" for other entrepreneurs and this is what we came up with:
These loan recipients are like the original ones in representing more than one area of enterprise, more than one geographical area and in at least one case, our loan helped the recipient achieve his or her total loan goal.
It is amazing to think that $550 could make such a huge difference in the lives of four people and their families, allowing them to take businesses to the next step and to be economically independent and able to educate their children. To most of us around the table, $550 is an amount of money we would notice-- not just the kind of change you'd drop on the street and not bother to pick up-- but for few of us was it a life changing amount of money, either. It reminded us of our many advantages and privileges as Americans and maybe made us think about our regular patterns of giving and whether as individuals we might want to become KIVA investors.