We've all used that line, sometimes sarcastically, about the various gifts we receive at Christmas--"It's the gift that keeps on giving!" But in all sincerity, I've found the gift I am going to give all of my nieces and nephews this year: one that teaches them about money, giving, investing, the value of work, and human dignity.
I know, I know. Right now, you are thinking, "Wow. That's one really ... [cough, cough] ... interesting gift."
I really think it is, though, and I hope it will be memorable for the "niblings," too. What I will be giving them is an opportunity to understand how they can make a difference in poverty alleviation around the world. What they will each receive is a gift card from Opportunity International, a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to providing microfinance loans, savings, insurance and training to over two million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world.
With the money they receive from me in their gift card, they can then go online and find a list of entrepreneurs from several nations. On that site, they can read about each of these business people, where they live, what kind of work they do, and what they will use their loan to do. Then my niblings can select which businesses they want to fund. While I make the charitable gift that my niblings can direct, Opportunity manages this money as a microfinance loan to these entrepreneurs and then recycles this money when the load is repaid. My hope is that my niblings will get excited about the specific and personal difference they are making in the lives of people they have never met. I hope my gift will jump-start their own patterns of charitable investments around the world and spark an interest in people outside of this nation.
And I encourage you all to do the same this Christmas! I was introduced to Opportunity earlier this year and have become quite interested in the work they do. I am also a supporter of Kiva's microfinance efforts and through them I have been investing in entrepreneurs in cities I've visited--from a woodworker in Jinja, Uganda, to a tailor in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Kiva created the world’s first peer-to-peer microloan website, which is really cool and worthy of support. But I like Opportunity's broader focus that includes more than making loans. Like Kiva, through their OptINNow subsidiary, they offer peer-to-peer microloans. But Opportunity also offers business training, community enterprise development, and other financial services such as microinsurance and microsavings--and have been doing so since 1971.
If you're interested in knowing more about how this works, visit Opportunity's FAQ.
Oh ... and in case any of my niblings are reading this, you will be getting other fun gifts, too!