Do you know about SFU’s charity initiative?

A look at SFU’s involvement with the Kiva lending program

Infographics from Kiva.org show SFU's impact since Nov. 2008

 

About the Kiva lending program

Kiva is an international non-profit organization that’s consistently given four stars on Charity Navigator. They crowdfund loans through an economically sustainable lending program called ‘micro-lending’ for borrowers in “more than 80 countries who are often financially excluded and can’t access other fair and affordable sources of credit,” according to Kiva’s website. These micro-loans help people in underprivileged countries empower themselves and begin “engaging the world” as SFU would say by accessing education and clean energy, improving living conditions, starting their businesses, or pursuing a lifelong ambitions.

 

What is micro-lending?

Micro-lending has been known to be one of the most long-term-effective charity methods that directly impacts the economies of small, impoverished communities. With Kiva, individuals donate or loan as little as $25 to help an impoverished individual kick off their small business. Lenders are giving these individuals and families access to traditional financing that is unavailable in their communities otherwise. The goal is to alleviate poverty for communities in a way that will keep them out of poverty in the long-term. Most micro-lenders (97% of loaning scenarios are successful) end up seeing the growth of their borrower’s business and receive a repayment of their loan which they can re-loan out to a different start-up business or withdraw their loan entirely.

“Micro-lending is a simple and easy way for individuals to actively participate in foreign aid and have a bit of competitive fun while doing so by joining teams,” said Dan McDonald, SFU Kiva team leader and member of the SFU Retirees Association. “As the micro-loans are repaid, the team members can choose to withdraw the money or simply re-loan it.”

 

SFU’s contributions

SFU — to my surprise and probably all of yours — has their own Kiva team page. The Kiva loans initiative was started by the SFU Retirees Association in 2008 and is led by McDonald  SFU has lent more than $100,000 to Kiva since they first became part of it. In fact, we are the top lending school in Canada, according to the SFU Bookstore website. The SFU Retirees Association believes that “[t]he team is a fine example of one of the ways SFU works to achieve one of its strategic objectives of being a ‘leading engaged university.’”

This initiative is not about business growth, it’s about giving back,” explained Mikhail Dzuba, director of the SFU Bookstore and Spirit Shop. “Since December 2012 when [the] SFU Bookstore and Spirit Shop joined Kiva, we have contributed 10% of the proceeds made from sales of our ethical gifts. We hope to continue this contribution to Kiva [in] the future, as we believe it’s important to encourage smart shopping behavior at SFU, and . . . play a role to help build awareness plus value for ethically and locally sourced products.”

To date, the Bookstore and Spirit Shop’s contributions from this effort has added up to $3150.

“We believe the Kiva lending program is making a difference, and [we] want to support entrepreneurial initiatives by artisans at the local level,” says Dzuba. “Providing economic support for local producers in the developing world directly aligns with SFU’s fair trade campus designation.”

 

Why are our relations with Kiva kept fairly low-key and “secret”?

“. . . [T]eam SFU Kiva could promote itself better,” Dzuba admitted. “We also can do a better job at spreading the word. Up to this point[,] we mostly promote/communicate to internal Bookstore/Spirit Shop staff about this teambuilding initiative along with information on our website for interested community members [but] it largely goes unnoticed.”

Following McDonald’s lead, the Retirees Association have enthusiastically embraced SFU’s micro-lending efforts with Kiva.

All the major groups within SFU such as the Faculty Association, the Simon Fraser Student Society, and the Retiree Association have been contacted to enlist support and to encourage their members to join the SFU Kiva team, but only the Retirees Association seems to have taken initiative with the majority of their members having joined the SFU Kiva team.

Perhaps it’s not so much that SFU’s relations with Kiva are kept “secret” or “largely [go] unnoticed,” but that not enough of us are choosing to notice and partake in the initiative. McDonald strongly encourages all SFU students, staff, and faculty to join the team.

“No need to put in any money or make any loans, but once you join the team you will have access to the team message board, see the loan requests, and generally get an idea of what it is about,” said McDonald.

 

SFU’s future with Kiva

SFU hopes to move from its place as the 37th university team to be amongst the top 10 university teams in the world. Currently, SFU is the number one Canadian university team. Kiva’s organization aligns with President Andrew Petter’s ‘Strategic Vision’ for SFU to become “the leading engaged university . . .” and his third main goal of “engaging communities,” making it a priority for the Bookstore and SFU as a whole.

“[The] SFU Kiva team is engaging the developing world and those who work toward its betterment,” said McDonald. “Incidentally, both President Petter and Chancellor Anne Giardini [of SFU] are members of the team.” If you’re interested in being a part of the team, too, you can join at https://www.kiva.org/team/sfu.

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