Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Gift That Enables

Today, Miriam had a job of choosing who she would want to help through KIVA.  The three kids got a gift certificate each from their Grandpa George and Grandma Barbara.  KIVA is an organization that connects people who have extra with intrepreneurs who need money to start or expand their small business.  Well, my in-laws just provided my kids with the ability to participate in this flourishing program. 

I had no influence on their choice at all.  It turned out that they all have chosen to support a business which they themselves understand.  Brahms decided to lend to a man from Dominican Republic who is in the food business.  I must say that his choice has been influenced by his own love of food.  Anything that has something to do with preparing food should be encouraged and supported. :)  He has seen people in the rural areas of the Philippine where women are seen selling homemade food such as banana-que (fried bananas on sticks) and puto (muffin-like rice cakes).   He ate a lot of those while he was there last year.  These food vendors are often limited in their production by the lack of money to buy their supplies. 

Miriam gave a loan to a farmer from Ecuador.  This farmer grows cacao, bananas, rice and corn.  I'm guessing that Miriam decision was affected by the memory of her experience sucking on cacao seeds from my sister's backyard.  She has also been in the rice fields, which she enjoyed so much, with her cousins collecting snails (escargot).  Miriam might not understand what goes on behind the fun of playing in the rice paddies but small farmers often have the problem of coming up with cash during planting season.  They need money to buy the seeds, fertilizers and for labor cost.  Farmers get their income at the end of the cropping season.  Smart farmers save the needed cash to plant the next crop.  Sometimes, however, natural events (drought, floods, and pests) can reduce their harvest or destroy a crop completely.

Having spent a considerable time in a similar economic situation, the kids have a clear image of the conditions of these people they are helping.  They have seen how small stores look like (such as the one owned by their aunt Rowena).  Shannon loaned money to a seamstress from Rwanda and another one in Mongolia.  Shannon got the chance to see and interact with a seamstress in Tuguegarao when my cousin and his wife (Eddie and Nenie) tried to find someone who would customize a gown for her.  She did not end up getting a gown made because the seamstress did not have wide variety of fabric to choose from.  Personal experience influences our choices.

George (my father-in-law) is a retired City Manager of Hollister.  He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Pakistan and Bangladesh in his younger days.   Barbara (my step-mother-in-law) is a retired lawyer.  She has been involved in a number of philanthropic activities in her community.  They have shown us, their kids, how to get involved in the lives of others.  In the previous years they have sent animals through Heifer International in our names - to help some families somewhere to start raising animals for food and money. They have been consciously opening the eyes of their grandchildren to a wider scope of their surroundings.  Even my children learned so much by going through the list of potential entreprises in which they can get involved.  Through this process, they realize that there are people out there whose dreams can be realized when others help.

KIVA enables people (somewhere) to move away from poverty.  It also enables people (here), like my children, to experience the mental exercise that drives them to dream with and pray for the people they have chosen to help.

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