Kids Do Good with Microfinance
By Paul Murdock, BallooningNestEggs.com
Paul Murdock is a writer for Ballooning Nest Eggs. His most recent work with the Dept. of State’s Youth Exchange Study exposed him to the power of new media in promoting youth participation in community service projects around the globe.
It’s Teen CEO Month, Auntie! If you want to empower your niece or nephew to feel like their money can make a real difference in the world, microfinance is the way to go.
What is microfinance and why is it important? Banks don't lend money to people without collateral. Over 1.2 billion people around the world live on less than a dollar a day – which means they don't have any collateral. Microfinance brings credit, savings, and other financial services to low income people who need it through loans and grants from non-profits, government programs and non-traditional lending institutions.
The concept of microfinance is not new. The idea has been discussed since the 19th century, but it didn't really take hold until the end of World War II with the advent of the Marshall Plan. Its major impact on the third world, however, can be traced to the 1970s in Bangladesh, shortly after the country won its independence from Pakistan, creating one of the most population-dense, poorest nations in the world.
My father is a minister and my mother is a nurse who went on mission trips to the Philippines and Africa with Heifer Project, so I was introduced to the power of small gifts in the Third World at a young age. Before you sit a niece or nephew down for the two-hour slide shows I had to endure, start simply by explaining what microfinance is and how he or she can get involved.
I recently worked with a number of high school students from Bangladesh and Pakistan who, after returning from a year in American high schools, were eager to put their newfound appreciation of community service into action. For many of my students, microfinance was the best way to serve their communities. They set up programs to help flood victims rebuild in Bangladesh. Other programs helped farmers to buy carts to sell their crops at market and buy dairy cows for widows in remote villages in Pakistan.
One of the coolest things about these programs is that among the donors are classmates from your nieces’ and nephews’ American high schools. Lifelong friendships were made during the exchange year and those friends wanted to help. Plus, their Facebook friends wanted to help too, and then they spread the word among their Facebook friends. Social networking has created a tremendous opportunity to reach a large number of contacts. And video sharing on YouTube, Google+, and Facebook allow supporters to see how their donations help families and communities.
Many organizations, such as Banking With The Poor and The Indian School of Microfinance for Women, have videos on their websites showing the real impact of donations. This is a great way to show nieces and nephews how their money can make a big difference in peoples' lives. Plus, the best way to reach teenagers is to use their language, and that often means using technology to make your point.
Tailor your discussion and action to your niece’s interests. If she’s an animal lover, Heifer Project is a good place to start. Consider giving her the gift of a donation for her birthday: $20 buys a flock of chicks. From personal experience, I would recommend also giving a tangible gift so that she doesn’t resent the charitable gift! When you give the donation, visit the website together, so she can see where the gift is going and how it will be used.
It's easy to get children involved in microfinance. All you have to do is explain it to your nieces and nephews, encourage them to get involved, and share the responsibility by volunteering your time and donating money. Then show them how meaningful the donation can be. If possible, track the progress of the program that they sponsored. Before long, your acts of selflessness will become part of your niece’s or nephew’s life, just like it has for me.
Do you have more ideas about how else you could engage your niece or nephew in an act of charity or social giving? Tell us at Ballooning Nest Eggs' facebook page.
Photo: Sara Nualpradid
Published: May 15, 2012