The Ovarian Lottery

I’ve been in Uganda for a week and a half now, working for a local MFI here called PEARL microfinance. During this time I’ve seen more action than I would have seen in 3 months back home. I’ve gone on a death defying motorcycle ride during a thunderstorm deep in the jungle, skidding through mud in 45deg declines and inclines (literally). I’ve witnessed the breathtaking beauty of the countrysides of Uganda — scenery that takes the cake from any other that I’ve seen in my 25 years, including Yosemite. I’ve gone on exciting adventures in the city with dozens of expatriates here similarly affected with a chronic restlessness and need for adventure.

But through it all, there is just one thing that stands out at the end of the day; something that occupies my mind during those quiet, solitary times in the evening just before going to bed. Its not the breathtaking views, the adventures in the city, or even the near death experiences on my motorcycle. It’s the faces of the locals here. The friendly shop owner and Kiva borrower who I pass by and say hello to on my way to work everyday; the entrepreneurs I’ve met with and interviewed at their broken down homes; the extremely well spoken, energetic and confident credit officer who made a lasting impression on me during one of our borrower meetings.

Any one of these people could be tremendously successful in America (economically speaking). Maybe a CEO of a prominent company, or a hotshot lawyer who wears a two-thousand-dollar suit to work everyday. But they arent. And the only reason for that is because of where they were born.

I think about it this way: suppose there is a barrel with 6 billion tickets, and before you’re born, you pick one at random. The ticket identifies what you will be when you enter this world, for example, rich or poor, black or white, retarded or bright, male or female. The title of this game is “the ovarian lottery”*. It’s a game we all played when we entered this world.

I won the ovarian lottery. I am a US citizen; got a good education; enjoy great health; and came equipped with a “engineer” gene that allows me to prosper in a manner disproportionate to other people who contribute as much or more to society. I’m in the top 1% of the entire population of the world.

Kiva, to me, is simply a way for those of us who drew the best tickets in the ovarian lottery to help those who drew less fortunate ones.

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*The “ovarian lottery” concept was taken from a speech by Warren Buffett, the world’s richest person who recently committed a staggering $31B to philanthropy


About the author

cory lee