Small loans vs. poverty

Sandra Flores’ Azukar Coffee could soon have a permanent location in South Phoenix. Photo:

Coffee helped Sandra Flores get through college. Now, after working for a decade in social work, she’s switched to selling cups of joe as a career. For the past year, Flores has been serving up Latin traditional flavors under the brand Azukar Coffee at festivals in and around her natal city of Phoenix. Now she plans to open up an actual cafe and a small loan from the nonprofit Kiva could help her do just that soon. And you could help finance that microloan with just a few dollars.

Azukar Coffee logo.

Flores applied for a $5,000 loan from the San Francisco-based nonprofit lending organization that serves in more than 80 countries, including the United States. Founded in 2005, Kiva uses crowdfunding via person-to-person microfinancing. It connects regular people like you willing to lend as little as $25 with entrepreneurs in need of money to start or grow small ventures like Flores’ coffee house.

Loans are expected to be paid back to the original individual microlenders. Kiva claims a 97 percent repayment rate, suggesting most people repay their obligations. As of late June, 37 seven people and four teams had contributed about $2,600 towards Azukar Coffee. There were about 20 days left to cover the whole amount.

Kiva’s stated mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. “We celebrate and support people looking to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities,” declares the nonprofit on its webpage.

Since its inception, the nonprofit has helped more than 2.5 million people in mainly, but not limited to, Third World nations in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, southeast Asia and Oceania, according to its website.

Oprah Winfrey is a fan of Kiva’s microloans.

The program’s reportedly successful person-to-person loans has gotten the attention of some famous people. Former president Bill Clinton gave a plug to Kiva in “The Oprah Winfrey Show” years ago. And the talk show host was apparently sold on the idea. “Kiva is a simple concept that can change a person’s life,” says Oprah Winfrey, who also included the nonprofit on her “Ultimate Favorite Things” in 2010.

With free promotions like those and the use of social media, Kiva has gained many contributors. About 1.6 million people have lent money through the nonprofit’s model. Recently, the organization reached a milestone surpassing the $1-billion mark in funds raised for microloans.

Flores, the coffee entrepreneur, is among a long list of individuals from many countries currently featured on Kiva’s website whose loans are waiting to get fully funded. “A loan of $5,000 (would help) us have a stable grand opening of our brick and mortar coffee shop,” says Flores, who works in tandem with her husband, Norberto. “We would apply the funds to inventory, pay suppliers for products and services, supplement cash flow, and service equipment.” That would be a huge leap from operating at community events since last year, she added. For now, her optimism to open up Azukar Coffee in the near future is reflected on the project’s  Facebook page with a cover photo that reads: “Coming Soon. Un poquito más de tiempo.”   

Bushra and her husband in Pakistan.

A plethora of stories of hopes and dreams of a better future appeal to contributors on Kiva’s website. Some ask for loans of just a few hundred dollars, which can go a long way in some parts of the world.

Last May, a 50-year-old mother of three from Pakistan named Bushra got a $300 loan to buy a new sewing machine and tailoring materials for her husband’s tailoring shop–the only source of her family’s income.

Many other small loans are waiting for help.

Yim’s Group members, Yim and Channath.

The Yim Group, a team of two from Cambodia, needs $375 to assist a member obtain fertilizer and insecticides for farming in the dry season.

In the Phillipines, $400 can aid 52-year-old Clarita purchase feed and other supplies to raise her pigs. In business for 16 years, expansion is her goal.

A $600 loan could help Glenda Marisela in El Salvador to get a greater variety of cosmetics to satisfy the needs of her clientele.

In Zimbabwe, the Malcom Group is asking for a loan of $550 to enable a member buy more bales of second-hand clothes.

For her part, Angela from Mexico could use a $1,675 loan to finish her kitchen to feed her family and eventually get clients appreciative of homemade meals.

Jose sells vegetables in Managua.

And José, who sells vegetables at a city market in Nicaragua’s capital needs $2,475 also for a solar system for his home-based grocery store.

Personal loans are also granted through Kiva.

Hector Onil of Honduras lives in community where is difficult to get electricity. A loan of $875 will help him get s solar energy system.

In Armenia, musician Rafayel wants a loan of $675 to buy a new traditional instrument and make repairs to the workroom where he teaches music.

A college education is what Andrea Valeria of Peru wants to fund with a $5,125 loan. This will cover the last two years of her studies in design technology and development of garments.

A Syrian refugee in Jordan, Mohamed, is also is asking for a education loan. He needs $1,425 to pay tuition for a bachelor’s degree in management information systems.

And in Albania, Maksim is hoping to secure $1,275 to help to pay for a surgery for his mother.

This is how Kiva works. 
• Browse the nonprofit’s website and chose a borrower with a story that connects with you.
• Make a loan by clicking the “Lend” button.
• Get repaid, receiving updates as your borrowers succeeds and repays their loans.

You can keep your repaid money, donate it to Kiva or repeat the process again to help another borrower with a life-changing microloan.

Then again, just like all the people featured in this article, you yourself can apply for a small loan to make your dreams a reality. Or refer friends who could realize their.

To fund a borrower, click here.

To apply for a loan, click this other link.

For more information on the San Francisco-based nonprofit, visit


Author: Cesar Arredondo

Journalist with more than 20 years of experience working for English- and Spanish-language and bilingual news outlets. Winner of three Best of the West Journalism Awards and a recognition from the National Association of Hispanic Publications.

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