'Tis the season--to do some good!*

"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."

I try to keep this in mind when making charitable donations--who's just throwing money at a problem, and who's really trying to do something to improve the underlying causes of the problem?

I have several charities near and dear to my heart, but today I'm going to wax poetic about Kiva, because, well, you'll see.

Kiva partners with microlending organizations in developing countries to make small business loans. "Small business," note, doesn't necessarily mean the same thing everywhere that it does here (like when you think of your LYS). It's often very informal--a woman selling "fast food" out of her home, or peddling clothes door-to-door. There's often no licensing, no staff, no marketing--just one person trying to get ahead.

So, what do we do? We are the lenders! Kiva offers a platform through which lenders can direct funds (they do the leg work--researching partner organizations, collecting funds from lenders, all the bureacratic red tape that seems to accompany trying to do something helpful; and the partner organizations do all the on-the-ground work necessary--identifying recipients, disbursing funds, organizing repayments, etc. ), but we pony up the cash.

And we don't just fling some money in Kiva's direction--this is the best part! We, the lenders, read people's stories and choose where to send our money. Some of the stories are incredibly inspirational--I read many of them as a Kiva translator, and always wish I had more money to lend! You also don't need a lot of cash on hand to lend--each loan is funded by multiple lenders, so you don't bear the entire burden.

And then we get our money back. To stick back in our wallets, or re-lend to someone else deserving. (Yes, there are defaults, but they are rare--both Kiva and the partner organizations work hard to identify reliable recipients and businesses to minimize chances for non-repayment.) This is what really makes our money so much more valuable--the same $25 can be used again and again to help different people.

(More info on how Kiva works here.)

Sooooo, this Christmas, I'm not giving away yarn, or pattern books, or anything knitting-related. I'm giving away a chance to do just a little smidge of good--a $25 Kiva gift certificate.

How can you win? Go to kiva.org right now and read some stories. Then come back here, and leave a comment telling me who you would lend to if you won the gift certificate (By the time the giveaway is finished, your chosen loan request will, hopefully, already be funded--but there are always more to pick from!). A knitter in Cusco? An Avon lady in Ecuador? A sheep herder in Azerbaijan? Whose story spoke to you?

When the winner gets his/her gift certificate, I would invite him/her to do a guest post on the blog to tell us all about who received the $25 and why.

(And of course, once the loan is repaid, you are free to withdraw the $25 and keep it for yourself--though I hope you'll continue to re-lend!)

Giveaway open until December 15. Tell your friends!

*(Actually, we should all do some good, all year round, but, well, Christmas is Christmas!)