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News & Stories: 2009-10

A kiva for Calvin
November 17, 2009

Bennet Samuel and Ashley Luse, founders of Calvin's first kiva.By tapping on the screen of his iPod Touch, Calvin senior Bennett Samuel can conjure up a photo of the woman halfway around the world whose business he has invested in: “This is Fatmeh, and she’s in Lebanon. She needed $1,500 for a new refrigerator for the grocery store that she runs,” Samuel said. "Lenders across the world—60 of them—loaned to her. And she’s already paid back 25 percent.”

Senior Ashley Luse has also loaned money to a businessperson in another nation, and she can visit her picture online. “Her name is Celia, and she’s also a grocery store owner in Peru,” said Luse. “I chose her because she is in a Spanish-speaking country, and I am passionate about development in Latin America and South America.”

Kiva founders

When the lenders are repaid, they will likely loan their money to another entrepreneur. Both Luse, a business major, and Samuel, a nursing major, are members—and founders—of the Calvin Kiva, a micro-lending Web site. “You give as an individual, but you join this group—to show solidarity,” said Samuel.

Kiva logoThe Calvin Kiva is part of the larger Kiva, a Web site that allows individuals to loan money to entrepreneurs all over the world. “It’s the world’s first micro-lending Web site,” Samuel explained. “A lot of these entrepreneurs can’t get financing because they don’t have credit history, or they can’t guarantee repayment. One of the goals of Kiva is to eliminate poverty by empowering entrepreneurs across the world—including the U.S., actually.”

The kiva relies on micro-finance institutions in countries all over the world. These institutions, which operate like banks but charge low interest rates, loan money to entrepreneurs in their communities. Potential donors can pick out an entrepreneur to support from the many profiles features on the Kiva Web site.

"An individual can donate to a Kiva,” Luse said. “Kiva (the parent organization) then lends to a microfinance institution, which then lends to the entrepreneur … They’re pretty selective about who they choose to lend to, and that’s why, typically, they have pretty high repayment rate. Kiva’s repayment rate is 98 percent.”

Now recruiting ...

Calvin’s kiva already has 29 members, culled from students, staff and alumni. Samuel and Luse are hoping to raise that number significantly. “Our goal is to, by Christmas, have 1,000 Calvin lenders, and we can do it!” Samuel said.

He and Luse got the idea to establish the Calvin Kiva when they attended a leadership summit at Willow Creek Community Church earlier this year, where the co-founder of Kiva, Jessica Jackley, was interviewed about the organization by Pastor Bill Hybels. This interview will be shown at 4 p.m. on Thursday, November 19 in the Bytwerk Video Theater. “Her story is very inspiring,” said Samuel.

The Calvin Kiva dovetails well with the college’s mission, said Erin O’Connor Garcia, Calvin’s coordinator of student activities: “Kiva is a perfect organization for college campuses, and I think it's even more perfect for Calvin students to be involved with, because it reinforces much of what we learn here about being good citizens of the kingdom and thinking of economy in a challenging way,” O’Connor Garcia said. “Kiva offers Calvin students a new way to ‘do money’ Christianly.”

Samuel agreed. “We want faculty, staff, students and alumni to get involved,” he said. “One of the goals of student organizations is to have a transformative affect.”

~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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