Got To Be Haiti, Right?

Word leaked from Kiva last night – they’re bringing on a new country sometime today. Here’s their clue:

  • After one of its former rulers “resigned”, he was promptly “escorted” to the Central African Republic
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains

Got to be Haiti, right? That’s where Aristide landed after being ejected from the country’s presidency in 2004.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere by far. It’s rated #153 out of 177 countries on the Human Development Index. C,mon Kiva Investment Group – can we make an impact here?

I’ll predict Haitian entrepreneurs will be picked up fast – if you have a spare $25 in your wallet today, this would be a good opportunity to invest in a country as a group.

Photo credit: International Real Estate Digest



Kiva Fat Cats Eat Sardines While Waiting For Pie

The Pondering Pig Kiva Investment Group Board Meeting continues…

PPig: Hey, thanks, Jessica Flannery, founder of Kiva, for sticking your head through the door to give us a few words of encouragement. I found this interview/podcast with Jessica on Britt Bravo’s blog. If it wasn’t for Jessica and her husband Matt, we might still be wondering how to spread some of our wealth around.

OK, maybe we’re not wealthy in North American terms, maybe we do have to meet at Portley’s Lunch Counter after he closes, but compared to the guys in Mozambique and Honduras and Azerbaijan- North Americans are pretty fat cats.

Look at the Human Development Index

Ok, don’t look at it. It’s pretty boring. I’ll tell you about it. The HDI is a fairly questionable list of every country that keeps statistics and how they compare to each other on how long people live, how much education they have, and how much money they make. You can question the statistics right down the line – and you should – but the true statistics are bound to make countries look worse, not better.

According to the Index, guess who are the fattest cats in the world? If you guessed the United States you guessed wrong. We’re down at number 8. Canada is couple rungs above us at number 6. The fattest cats in the world live in sardine country, naturally …NORWAY!

And the skinniest cats live in a little African country you never heard of: Niger. People in Norway live twice as long as people in Niger. They’re forty times wealthier. And the educational statistics from Niger are, well, fatal.

Belladonna: So what’s this got to do with Kiva, Pig? You suggesting we should fix up Niger, than move on to the next country on this list?

PPig: Well, I was wondering if something like that makes strategic sense. Not Niger, because Kiva isn’t working there yet, but maybe Mozambique. They are the skinniest cats on the Kiva website according to the HDI.

Kirstie: I think poor people are poor, period. It doesn’t matter where you live. Kiva borrowers have a dream, they have a hope, they think they can feed their families better, maybe fix their roof – whatever, if they can get a business loan to build up their businesses. I don’t see why it matters what country they’re in.

PPig: True enough. But we do have to choose. I counted 41 people hoping for a loan on Kiva this morning. If you loan $25 to everybody, that’s $1025 today and more coming tomorrow. We have to pick a person, so to speak. Who is it going to be? Right? Am I right? How do you decide? I’d like to know and Portley’s Lunch Counter is open for discussion on this topic.

Image credits: Nations Online, Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Hermatikk, Patrushka

Kiva Investment Group Bigshots Meet

Transcript of the Pondering Pig Kiva Investment Group Managing Directors Meeting Feb 27 2007

PPig: Welcome, Directors, to cousin Portly’s Lunch Counter. Yep, no mahogany conference table plundered from the forests of Borneo for us! And Portly said we could meet here after he closed if we bussed our own coffee cups. He even left us a pie for later.

Is everybody here?

Let’s see.
Paula and Spoke?

That’s all the members so far of our Kiva Investment Group. Of course, as you may know, we encourage everyone to join our exclusive group. Just invest in a Kiva businessperson or two (by clicking on the box in the upper right corner), and email me me your Kiva Member Page Link. A Member Page looks like this, for example.

Now, let’s get down to business.

I have been tallying our member lists and find that between the eleven of us we are partnering with seventy-five micro-entrepreneurs in eighteen different countries.

Group: Clap clap clap! Hooray! Let’s adjourn! Cut the pie!

PPig: Keep your mitts off that pie! Folks, our micro-entrepreneurs are starting or expanding grass roots businesses in some of the poorest countries in the world. We’re giving them a chance to succeed on their own terms without any charity.

Oh, I know a lot of us are just going to loan out our money again after we get paid back. No one’s trying to make a profit. We just think, “Hey, twenty-five bucks! I’ll spend more than that if I take the Pondering Pig out to lunch! And it’ll really make a difference to these Kiva guys.”

Leo: Gee, we could give out bumper stickers. Invest in Kiva…or take the Pondering Pig out to lunch!

PPig: Hmmph! May I continue? Our partners’ two most popular businesses are selling clothes and running little grocery stores. In fact, nineteen of our seventy-five businesses are in those two areas. Mostly, people run the businesses right out of their home or have a little stall in the marketplace. Building up their inventory is the number one reason for wanting a loan.

Ramon: Yeah, but we invest in all kinds of other businesses too. Besides retail, we have a blacksmith in Ecuador, a guy in Azerbaijan who raises sheep, a Bulgarian beekeeper, a lady in Kenya who sews embroidered seat covers (a big seller), and a furniture maker in Mexico. In Nicaragua, we’ve even invested in a cyber cafe .

Loryjean: I like my tomato lady in Togo. Her name is Ms. Houégnamétor Adjogble.

Julia: And I like my three tailors in Afghanistan, like Nafesa Gul Dad.

Hannah: Don’t forget my beautician in Senegal, Fatou Kine Niang!

PPig: OK OK, we are investing in really cool people, and it’s great to see them taking their destiny into their own hands. My question is…how are their loan repayments coming?

Tomorrow: Do KIVA Borrowers Repay Their Loans? KIG’s Experience. Plus All Kind of Other Interesting Stuff. Plus Pie All Round.

Photo – Portly’s Lunch Counter: Patrushka
Photo – Fatou Kine Niang: Kiva

Car Washes and Genocide

Look, I’m a peaceful pig. I like to write stories about Playland-at-the-Beach and write silly things that make people laugh and tell stories of when I was a little kid in San Francisco’s Richmond District or a big kid in the Haight-Ashbury.

The trouble is I tend to also be a restless and disgruntled pig.

I hate seeing people suffer.

I hate reading about the Janjaweed throwing babies on bonfires in Darfur.

I can’t just walk away. Didn’t anybody else around here see Hotel Rwanda? Did you think it never really happened? Then why aren’t we all out screaming? The bad guys in Sudan have been killing innocents mercilessly by the tens of thousands for years and our government couldn’t care less. The media? How many times have you had your nose rubbed in the Darfur genocide this month? Once? Nonce? Maybe if you watch PBS.

I don’t know. Guess I’ll write to my Congresswoman Cathy again, even though she is a Bush yes-woman don’t care loyalist.

Anyway, here’s a story about some people who got off their ass – Nick Kristof’s column this morning, called Car Washes and Genocide. I’d recommend reading it, even if you have to sign up for the NY Times. It’s a hopeful story.

It’s up to us. When you lend a struggling blacksmith in Ecuador twenty-five bucks to help expand his business, when you stick a “Save Darfur” sign in your front yard, when you send ten bucks a month to a family in Cambodia to bribe them into keeping their daughter in school for another year if she keeps perfect attendance (I’m going to tell you how to do this in an upcoming post) – when you say to yourself, “I’m just not going to stand for this bullshit anymore.”…then…you won’t be standing for this bullshit anymore.

I know this is an existential act. The world’s not going to change. Some new evil will arise. Some new monster will put his pleasure and power above innocents’ suffering. So what? While I live, I fight. Join me.

Some Simple After-Christmas Wishes

Here are my after-Christmas wishes for you, dear reader…

May your life be blessed as mine has been…
In fact, may all your children live to become adults.
May you love them as adults.
And may you care for your grandchildren because…they’re still alive.

None of them drank dirty dysentery water and died…
None of your four year olds caught measles and died, like they still do in Africa…

May you all love your children as much as that woman in Somalia does whose baby died of malaria because all the cheap new wonder drugs were somewhere else…

When your kids get sick, may there be a good doctor and good medicine somewhere nearby…

May your children never be brain damaged because you never heard of iodized salt. And you couldn’t buy any anyway because there was no iodized salt in a hundred miles…

And may all your children learn to read and write and do arithmetic. If they decide to go to college, may you have a decent university in your land and may you be able to pay the fees…

May your children never be raped and beaten by a brutal stepfather or left to go hungry by an uncaring stepmother because you were blown up by a mine when you walked across the meadow…

May none of your daughters have to choose prostitution so they can feed their children…

And here’s my Christmas wish for all of us…

May each one of us in the rich countries, the overweight countries, the properly insured countries…
may we wake up, stand up, reach out, stand out, lend
a stupid hand, a clumsy hand, a trying to hand, a soft hand, any kind of hand,
whatever I can do, whatever you can dream up, a boring idea will work,
but a helping hand… a little band for the wretched ones
who never heard of KIVA,
whose homes were blown up by the Islamacists, the supremacists, the pragmatists, the takers, the fakers, the deliverers with guns in their quivers and hate in their livers,
the grabbers, the stabbers, the strong who grow stronger because they took it all and the weak ones got none…

I’m sitting her in my comfortable warm bungalow with Joanie Baez whispering, “Show me the famine, show me the frail eyes with
no future that show how we failed,
And I’ll show you the children with so many reasons why,
There but for fortune, go you or I”….
and now Carly Simon comes on singing,
“I’ve got to learn from the greats,
Earn my right to be living,
With every breath that I take,
Every heartbeat, And I — I want to get there
I — I want to be one, one who is touched by the sun,
One who is touched by the sun…

and I…just an ordinary…barnyard variety pig…feel like…I..might…want to be touched by the sun too!

God, I pray that for all of us this day.

Photo by Y.K. Lee. Nduli, Western Cape, South Africa, 2002