Here’s my suggestion for Christmas gifts this year. If you’re tired of giving your money to big corporate retailers who give nothing back (Amazon, anyone?) to buy useless stuff that nobody really needs, just to fill a space under the Christmas tree, consider a Kiva gift card.
Kiva is a non-profit based here in San Francisco, which makes me particularly proud. I can’t describe their mission nearly as well as their website, but I will try. Kiva brokers micro-loans between individuals, which means you can loan as little as $25 to a farmer in Tajikistan, or a mother selling fruit in Kenya. You get to choose where your loan goes, and just reading through the list of borrowers is a lesson in geography. After you make your loan, you get updates on the status of you loan, and when the money is paid back (with a 98.93% repayment rate), you get to make another loan. You can also withdraw your money or donate it to Kiva.
When you give a Kiva gift card, you give someone else the chance to experience this process. I think this is particularly valuable for kids. Instead of just logging in to facebook on their computers, kids will look through profiles of people around the world who are seeking to improve their lives. Then they will actually help some of them. So many gift cards go unused and wasted, with the money reverting to the retailers (although here in California, we have some good gift card expiration laws). If a Kiva gift card isn’t redeemed after 12 months, the money becomes a donation to Kiva. At least it’s going to a non-profit doing good work.
There are several ways to give a Kiva gift card: you can print one on your own printer, post one to facebook, send one in an email, or have a card sent by snail mail from Kiva. The last one is especially nice, but they need at least 10 business days, so be sure to plan ahead for Christmas delivery.