Though I usually don’t post anything very political or activismish (I know, that’s not a real word, but neither is automagically and look at how many “professional” bloggers use that!) I wanted to take a moment to post something that is a bit serious and important to me.
I’ve always considered myself a bit of a Philanthropist, though when most people think of a Philanthropist, they picture these billionaires that can donate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to various charities (and of course, that’s the type of Philanthropy I hope to achieve some day) but of course anyone, really, can be a Philanthropist. And, at least to me, I feel it’s important that everyone who can, should try to be one.
Without going through an entire history of my efforts in Philanthropy, I just wanted to point out my first efforts and my most recent effort (which is where this is all leading to, as I am encouraging everyone to contribute to this… but more on that in a bit.) My first efforts began when I was 10 years old believe it or not. I had been a musician since the age of 4 and my Dad was pretty good at giving me semi-professional instruments for my birthdays or Christmases, but I had discovered the Gibson Les Paul guitar and wanted one badly and there was no way in hell my Dad was going to give a 10 year old kid a Les Paul! So I knew I was going to have to save up and buy it myself.
Now, I didn’t have a paper route and I hated doing yard work, so I knew those options were out, but luckily, I was also a magician (since the age of 6) and I started performing magic shows, first at birthday parties for kids my age, and eventually school auditoriums. My Grandmother made me professional business cards with two little rabbits jumping out of a magician’s hat and before you know it, I had my own little business going (my first steps into entrepreneurship!) I also supplemented this with Clown and Mime work the old fashion way; performing on the streets with a hat out (mostly at San Diego’s Balboa Park.) I did pretty good and was making good money, saving up for my beautiful black Gibson Les Paul Custom! But something happened, I was asked to do a show at the San Diego Children’s Hospital for the terminally ill children. I did the show, and this affected me heavily; there was no way I was going to charge them for my performance. In fact, I wound up performing regularly there for about a year or so and it didn’t matter to me that I was doing this for free, because I was doing just fine with all of my other gigs, and seeing the smile on these kids faces at the hospital was the biggest payment I could have ever received (and by the time I was 13 I did purchase a 1976 Gibson Les Paul Custom, the exact one that I wanted!)
So fast forward to today, the economy has hurt or at least affected most of us. I personally have had to take on a new, more practical business that I would normally not have ever considered before (I even have to wear a suit and tie which goes against EVERYTHING I believe in!) but, compared to many parts of the world, we just don’t realize how good we got it. I mean, the fact that you, my dear reader, are even reading this blog means you have it better than millions of others that have never even seen a computer in their life times.
And it’s all well and good to do your small part and occasionally donate to some charity you see on an infomercial that claims they’ll get the money to a needy child or family, but I recently discovered another, more effective way to make a difference:
Kiva.org allows you, a lender, to lend a very small amount of money to someone in an impoverished country, who is already trying to build a small business (usually selling fruits and vegetables to their village, etc.) and just needs a little more funding to help them carry on with what they do. From the Kiva.org site:
The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding – not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.
This is a powerful thing. Think about it… in my case, even in this terrible economy, I still have this bad habit of going to Starbucks every day during the work week. At the very minimum I spend $5, that’s $25 a week. So what if I don’t go to Starbucks anymore and just drink coffee at home? (which I also do anyway) Then I can contribute that $25 every week to someone in Uganda or Nigeria who will then be able to buy enough product to sell for a reasonable price to their community, thus feeding their neighbors, themselves and their own family. Reread that again… my self-imposed abstinence from my daily Starbucks is feeding a village each week! That is important! Not just for me, but for the world! EVERYONE that is reading this blog should be doing this because it is that easy, it is necessary and it will make a difference to many, many people.
I read a great quote the other day from a fellow Kiva.org contributor by the name of Douglas that said:
Money is like manure. If you stack it up it begins to stink. Spreading it around makes things grow.
I hope everyone considers this and contributes to help end poverty by empowering those that are willing to work hard and who in turn are contributing back to their own communities. You can track my own efforts in this through my Kiva.org profile page.
Finally, please watch this FRONTLINE/World report to see how Kiva.org are helping to build and expand businesses in impoverished countries:
(and this is officially my longest post to date.)