Feb 7, 2014 US United States
By Jessica Hansen
Sacred Heart Seniors Become Entrepreneurs and Pay Homage to Nelson Mandela
How do students help change the lives of people they've never met, from 10,000 miles away? They believe in them. And give them the financial tools to help themselves.
 
As part of the Kiva U program, 200 seniors from Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep are about to embark on their senior service project to create small businesses and raise revenue from their community. Then, to pay homage to Nelson Mandela, the students will use the profits to fund loans in South Africa on Kiva. Like Kiva borrowers, these students don’t have access to traditional credit and will be taking out microloans from their student council to finance their business projects. 
 
It’s an exciting concept and Kiva hopes to see other classrooms approach learning about microfinance with such innovation and enthusiasm! 
 
Kiva U was started in 2013 as a way to harness the energy, passion and creativity of young leaders and educators to address the world’s critical problems through microfinance.
 
Any school, college or youth organization can get involved and access curriculum or toolkit materials, start a Kiva U lending team or find creative ways to incorporate microfinance into their schools and lives. 
 
Kiva staff Jessica Hansen and Justin Renfro visited the Sacred Heart students last week to lead a discussion on business, entrepreneurship and how to help others. Seven students from Sacred Heart Cathedral addressed their peers and highlighted some of what they love about Kiva U, included learning more about mobile banking, meeting local borrowers and discovering the comprehensive and sustainable economic benefits of microfinance. The idea of investing, rather than donating, resonated with these young people. They want to empower others to change their economic realities instead of providing charity and short-term aid.
 
Students share their favorite parts of the Kiva U Summit with their class.

 
One student deeply inspired by Kiva Zip said, “Being in contact with borrowers and interacting with them is unbelievable. Today the process of taking out loans from banks can be very dehumanizing and robotic. Kiva makes this tedious exchange more like a relationship and I think that’s amazing.”
 
The students were discouraged to hear that seven out of ten small businesses in their own country are denied loans from banks. But new credit opportunities, like Kiva Zip, provide new hope. In fact, if just one third of those businesses who are denied loans were able to employ one more person, unemployment in the U.S. could be nullified.

Kiva staff members field questions from the audience.


During the Q&A panel with Kiva staff, students were particularly interested in peer-to-peer lending (P2P) and mobile banking. One great example is m-Pesa, the mobile banking platform in Kenya that has grown rapidly and now reaches 83% of Kenya’s 23.5 million adults. 
 
Students were most interested in how mobile banking like m-Pesa can connect lenders and borrowers directly. Personal connection is at the heart of Kiva’s mission and it’s clearly a big part of what is motivating these students too. We can’t wait to get updates on this Kiva U project as it brings the impact of microfinance to life for this class. Stay tuned!

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Jessica comes to Kiva with a background in international education, local capacity building, and global engagement in sustainable poverty alleviation. She heads up Kiva’s education initiative to enhance understanding, involvement, and the mobilization of students and teachers around micro-finance. Prior to this, she worked in remote rural Kenya with Nuru International and has also worked with the U.S. Committee for Refugees & Immigrants, Mercy Corps, the IRC/Women’s Refugee Commission, UNHCR, the Centre for Refugee Research, and MSF (Doctors Without Borders). She holds a BA of International Politics from the University of Central Oklahoma/University of Leicester and an MSW in International Social Development from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Her overseas work has been mainly in East Africa and Southeast Asia, and she is conversational in French, Thai, and Kiswahili. She loves people and travel, bouncing between the wilderness and big cities, savoring amazing food, and regularly fawning over children and animals.

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