Quest Story – Giving With Purpose – Using Micro-loans to Make a Difference in Vietnam

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The number one reason why people give is that they have an opportunity. Micro-loans provide that opportunity to give in a new way, allowing people to make small loans ($25 and up) to individuals around the world. You get your money back after a certain time period. With Kiva for example, you get it back within six to 12 months. Then, you can funnel the money into another loan, donate it to Kiva or return it to your bank account.

I spoke with entrepreneur John Sorenson about a recent trip he made to Vietnam to see the effects of micro-loans he made possible there, as well as to help with unexploded ordinances left from the Vietnam War. John took a break from celebrating his 70th birthday last week to tell me his story:

Audio:
How John got involved with micro-loans and his trip to Vietnam to see them in action

 

Audio:
The positive effects John saw in Vietnam from his micro-loans

 

John facilitated his micro-loans through Project Renew, part of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial FundClick here to lend money through KIVA.

Here’s an excerpt from one day’s entry in John’s Vietnam Journal:

We are up bright and early for a 7:45 a.m. meeting with Clear Path International, headquartered in Bainbridge Island, WA, and directed to helping UXO victims and their families.

Our next activity is to go with the RENEW staff to visit our micro-loan recipient families. (We had raised about $15,500 for this project to date, and the first $10,000 launched a class for 25 families – first taught animal husbandry skills and then provided funds for purchasing their animals.) Dang Quang Toan (“Toan”), the RENEW project coordinator, has prepared a document providing the details of the project so far; it has excellent content. Of the 25 recipients of loans, 16 have chosen to buy water buffalos for working their fields, three have purchased pigs, and six have purchased cows (oxen). We are assured that the project is being run well.

We go to the homes of two recipient families. In both cases, the men are not able to work because of their UXO wounds. One woman has received a water buffalo and the other an ox. In both cases, these will be used to pull their farm implements in place of tractors. Each of these families grows rice and peanuts, but had to rent the use of a buffalo or ox up to this time, removing a large percentage of the profits from their crops. To say the least, these women are very happy with their animals. Toan encourages us to raise another $5K so they can launch another class of 25.

After lunch with the RENEW staff, we head west to the mountains dividing VN and Laos. This is the land of the Montengards (“mountain people” who consist of 53 minority groups living mostly in the north and along the VN western border and making up about 10% of the VN population). We visit a pre-school and community center that was built by funds from the Global Community Services Foundation (GCSF) and Project RENEW. The center is on stilts in the tradition of the tribe, and the cost to build both buildings was about $30K. The community center has multiple purposes and provides a place where the heritage of the people can be preserved. It is wired for electricity but has no meter so the electricity is not turned on. Toan opens her purse, and soon all of us chip in $100 to buy a meter so they can get some electricity and a ceiling fan to move the hot, humid air. We are a spontaneous group.

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