This Easter season, St John Catholic High School in Perth, celebrated a new milestone in its decade long St. John CHS Kiva Project. Students in Mrs. McKinnon and Mme. Gauthier’s grade 7 classes helped push past the $30 thousand mark in loans financed through our Kiva microcredit loan fund. Our 312th loan recipient, a Kenyan woman and mother of 4 named Margaret, required financing for the purchase of seeds and fertilizer for the cultivation of her maize crop. Margaret’s loan and the hundreds before it were all made through Kiva.org, a nonprofit organization that connects thousands of borrowers around the world (those in poverty like Margaret) with lenders (like the students and staff of St. John CHS) in an effort to create fair access to capital, alleviate poverty, and create a brighter, more secure future for those in need and their families.
Here at St. John’s, what started over 10 years ago as a small project to help combat poverty by making loans to poor entrepreneurs and borrowers, has grown into a significant contribution to the microfinance movement. Our school community has raised thousands in capital for lending, which has been loaned and reloaned many times over, reaching across 57 countries globally, and continuing to grow daily. The impact of our school’s efforts become even more powerful when we realize that many of the borrowers would never qualify for a commercial bank loan and that for the cost of what we would spend on the latest tablet or smart phone they can grow their business and dramatically improve their quality of life.
In addition to the impact these loans have had on economically disadvantaged borrowers around the world, is the lasting impression on the students who have become their young financiers. Through the St John CHS Kiva project students have come to a deeper realization of the incredible challenges these borrowers face on a daily basis just to provide for themselves and their family.
“I really enjoyed taking part in the Kiva project”, shared Aaliyah Langford, a student in Grade 7, referring to her class’ involvement with the Kiva project. “My favourite part was learning about people’s stories and how people in other countries and even countries like our own … go through struggles and sometimes need help. I felt like I changed someone’s life through Kiva, which made me feel great!”
And perhaps most importantly, students have come to see themselves and their families in the faces and life stories of these hard working entrepreneurs who live half a world away. Entrepreneurs like Erlinda from the Philippines, a mother of 5, who needed new supplies for her auto repair shop, or Bahaa a 21 year old furniture maker from Palestine who needed new carpentry equipment, or Shamim from Kenya who borrowed to grow her beauty salon business – all who received funds from St. John CHS.
So this spring, while we are all continuing to face the challenges of the ongoing worldwide pandemic, we can find a ray of hope and much pride in what our school community has accomplished through our St. John CHS Kiva project. Our small Lanark County high school has impacted the lives of hundreds of entrepreneurs, their families, and their communities around the world. And likewise, the lives of hundreds of St. John’s students, both past and present, that have helped with this project over the past decade, have also been impacted. As one former student, now graduated, once commented, “I had never done anything like this before, I mean helping people in need like this…It really felt great, and I was really proud of what we did.”
Congratulations St. John’s and keep up the great work! It is truly making a difference in the lives of so many, both here at home and around the world.
To learn more about Kiva, microcredit loans, or to become a lender yourself, see www.kiva.org