Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Meet Featured Lender, Sarah from Manchester, UK!

At Kiva, we feel incredibly lucky to have such dedicated and inspiring lenders. In an effort to get to know our lender community better, we have asked some of them to tell us a little bit about themselves. We are proud to introduce Featured Lender, Sarah! Read on to find out what makes her tick and what she likes about being a Kiva Lender!

Sarah from Manchester, UK

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do when you’re not busy being a Kiva Lender.

Well, I’m 33 and I’ve lived in Manchester for 10 years after graduating in Theology from Liverpool. All things to do with world religions utterly fascinate me, as do most things historical – I’m into coin collecting because I love holding these little pieces of history. (People say “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could talk?” I tell them they do – if you know how to listen.)

Outside of Kiva I’m an avid distance walker, and I’m training up at the moment to do an 11-day event for charity which will involve walking about 200 miles in total. When I’m feeling slightly less energetic, I’m into vintage computing and gaming (Asteroids anyone? You love it and you know it!), and tarot card reading. Work-wise, I’m in the Personnel team of a mental health charity, carrying out reference and police checks on the people we’re planning to employ – it’s a wonderful job in a great atmosphere, but you do need a very good “nose” for anything suspicious.

2. What does being a Kiva Lender mean to you?

I love the sense of personal involvement, of being able to look in the eye the person you are loaning to – or at any rate the person paying you back, I appreciate that the loans are usually pre-disbursed and understand why it has to be that way. Often when giving to charity, there is a sense that your money is going down a black hole, you know that your money is going to a particular cause but of necessity you can’t know exactly where and how. Kiva is different from this and it gives me a feeling of having made a personal difference to real people trying to get onto their feet.

I’m reminded of a story my Theology professor told us. A boy was walking up an island beach, the morning after a tropical storm. Overnight the storm had washed up crabs, thousands of them, and left them stranded on the beach, unable to find their way back to the sea. As the boy walked along, he would pick up the crabs and toss them back out into the sea. A man also came walking along the beach, and he saw the boy doing this, and called out to him, “Hey – what do you think you’re doing? There’s thousands of crabs, you don’t seriously think you can save them all do you? Forget it – you’ll never make a difference!”. The boy made no answer, but stooped again, picked up one crab, threw it back into the sea, and watched it swim off. Then he straightened up and replied, “I bet I made a difference to that one.”

3. Can you tell us about any Kiva Teams that you are a part of and what you like about being part of those Teams?

I’m in four teams – Supporters of Tajikistan because I’m struck by how loans from this country typically struggle for funding (I presume people don’t really know or associate much with Tajikistan, but it’s a country with amazing history that very much needs our help). GLBT (I’m bisexual), and Crazy Country Collectors because let’s face it, it’s great seeing how many teams you can get, watching the map on your portfolio light up and finally nailing a rarely seen country!

But one team is undeniably the closest to my heart – the Late Loaning Lenders Team. I don’t like the thought of any borrower going away unfunded, I like to see everyone get a slice of the cake (that’s what we’re about on Kiva, isn’t it?). The LLL team works to ensure that those whose loans are in danger of expiring get funded – not just by making loans ourselves but by loaning strategically so as to “bump” a struggling borrower up to the top of the popularity list where more people can see them, and raising awareness with other teams. It’s a very busy team with a marvellous atmosphere, and the sense of cohesion and purpose, especially when we’re having a bit of an emergency and lots of loans are getting down into their last few hours, never ceases to amaze me. You could say we’re like Kiva’s goalkeepers.

4. Are there any other comments you’d like to share about your experiences as a Kiva Lender?

What you’re doing is pretty much unique. Charity very much has its place, so not to take away from the sterling work they do in any way, but I do believe that given the choice most people in the world would much rather make their own way than have to resort to charity. I’m also surprised sites like Kiva aren’t better known by the public at large, and if they were I’m sure they’d be better supported: there’s a real sense of engagement and fulfillment to loaning through Kiva, and in these difficult economic times when everyone is feeling the pinch, loaning as opposed to giving is surely attractive.

And you’ve managed the feat of crossing Kiva over, and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying this, from being just another good cause or website, into something approaching a way of life. Being on Kiva is fun! Straight after checking my emails, I pop on Kiva to see how things are going on. My spare room is taken over with a huge wall map covered in sticky stars for the countries I’ve loaned to. When pay day comes, one of the first things I do is Kiva a portion of the month’s money. The housekeeping budget goes to the wall month after month as I see “just one more” person I can’t resist lending to; my employer will want to talk to me about my excessive use of the internet in company time... and Kiva, it’s all your fault! Just joking. You’re doing great work, do keep it up.

To find out more about our wonderful lender community or to join a lending team, go to Kiva’s Community Page!

Thanks for all you do for Kiva, Sarah!