Wednesday, December 26, 2012

To Extend A Helping Hand

Still in the throes of a Christmas dinner-induced torpor, this will be a relatively brief post related to material in today's Toronto Star dealing with microloans.

As a teacher for 30 years, I always deeply respected those students who sincerely wanted to improve their marks and were willing to do the hard work that goal entailed, as opposed to those who simply wanted to carp about their grades or tried to wheedle an improved assessment from me. In retrospect, it seems natural that, after retirement, I became involved as a volunteer editor with an organization called Kiva, which facilitates microloans to entrepreneurs in the developing world. It is a role I still enjoy to this day. For as little as a $25 loan, people throughout the world can assist those working hard to improve life for themselves and their families. Of my years as a lender, I have only had one loan default.

For those who would prefer to assist people closer to home, I learned today that there is an organization operating in the Toronto area called Access Community Capital Fund. As reported in The Star, the organization offers loans to assist budding local entrepreneurs who do not qualify for traditional loans:

“We are helping people who have no access to credit so they can build their own business and pay to send their kids to school,” says Don Inouye, chair of Access’s board of directors.

The charity provides loans of up to $10,000. But the typical amount is between $3,000 and $5,000. The money is disbursed by the Royal Bank and guaranteed by Access.

Investors earn 1 per cent on their capital, but most donate their earnings back to the charity, he says. “They don’t invest to make money. They do it to make a difference.”

I suspect that many, when contemplating the myriad problems that confront us both domestically and internationally, feel impotent. Participation as a lender in a microloan program is an empowering experience and a sure antidote to that sentiment.

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