by Rob Mittelman, KF8, Peru
When I visit Kiva Borrowers, I bring along a colour printout of their Kiva Profile for them to keep. For many of them it’s a real thrill. They knew their information was on the internet but had never seen their page, their picture, or read their own story before (our stories appear in the original Spanish underneath the English translation). It usually gets passed around and shown to all present. There are always lots of giggles and some embarrassment as I tell them people in the US know about their little restaurant, people in Spain know about their market stall, or how someone from Norway is familiar with their handicrafts. Most take very good care of the printout while I’m around. I don’t know where it ends up but I’ve yet to see it folded up, stuffed in a pocket, or left behind.
One of the most exciting parts for them is seeing their Kiva Lenders and where they come from. For most the people reading this blog, that’s you! They want to know who these strangers are who helped fund their loan. Many of them have had trouble securing loans from loan officers and people they know and who know them. So, to get a loan from someone they have never met is unheard of. I’ve seen their faces as they scan the list and pictures of their Kiva Lenders and they are as excited as you and I are when, as Kiva Lenders, we scroll the Lend tab on Kiva.org choosing our next Kiva Borrower to support.
One of the most popular messages the Kiva Borrowers I interview have for their Kiva Lenders apart from thanking them is to let them know that they won’t let you down. You believe in them and they appreciate that more than I can express. They feel connected to you. Without ever having heard Kiva’s mission statement, they feel that they really are connecting to people through lending.
You, Mr/Ms Kiva Lender, inspire them as much as they inspire you.
Hard to believe but true.
Yesterday, I was asked a difficult question. A Kiva Borrower from Lima, asked me if she received her loan from a dog and a ghost. “A dog and a ghost?” I said, “No, of course not”. Then I looked at her profile. Her only two Kiva Lenders (it was a small loan) were pictures of someone’s pet dog and someone listed as anonymous with the default silhouette.
I explained that the dog was the Kiva Lender’s beloved pet (Kiva is easy to use and all but I don’t think we’re at the point when animals are signing up themselves) and that some people don’t want to have their picture and name online. I assured her that there were, in fact, real people funding her loan. She knew that, of course, but wanted to thank the people behind her loan and know who they were. Just as they know who she is. These two Kiva Lenders will receive the journal update about her progress with her beauty products business along with her thanks but she still doesn’t know who her mysterious supporters are. She wants to know them as much as they want to know her.
These two Kiva Lenders shouldn’t be singled out and I apologize for doing so. I actually removed the name Kiva Borrower from an earlier draft to protect her Kiva Lenders because it’s a story that could be applied to many. They aren’t alone out there. There are many Kiva Lenders who post pictures of pets, avatars, scenery, or nothing at all. They are, undeniably, well within their Kiva rights to do so. However, I ask these Kiva Lenders to think about the Kiva Borrower and that they want to connect with you as much as you do with them. It’s hard to connect with a default silhouette or the picture of a pet.
Be proud of lending on Kiva! Show the Kiva Borrowers who you are!