How I Helped a Woman in Tajikistan Buy a Sewing Machine

Have you heard of Kiva (kiva.org)? It’s a non-profit organization that lends money to people who want to start businesses to get out of poverty. (Kiva says it better than I do, here on their About page.) Basically, you lend money to someone in need, and they repay the money back just like a regular loan. Except that they’re small loans, for specific reasons, and all of the money from the lenders goes directly to the people needing the money. There are stories for each person, why they’re seeking a loan and what they plan to do with the money.

I signed up when Mr Sewaholic sent me an ‘invite’ to join. Of course, I searched for something sewing-related to support if possible.. and found one! My donation helped a woman in Tajikistan buy a sewing machine and start a sewing business.

I made my loan at the beginning of August when she was at 4% of her goal, and when I checked the site again mid-August, her loan had been fully funded. Isn’t that cool? That didn’t take long at all. Now as she pays back the loan, I can take that money and re-invest it into someone else’s hopes and dreams.

If you would like to give it a try, I can invite friends to join Kiva – just click this link to the ‘invited by Tasia’ page here. (Bonus: if you sign up, I can earn credits to lend to more people. And in turn, if your friends are inspired to sign up, then you could earn credits too. Official info about that here.)

You don’t have to, of course, but it’s a neat concept. I wanted to share because I thought it was cool, and relevant. Where we have so much available, we’re stashing fabric and collecting beautiful materials, and many of us sew mainly for pleasure, there are people who want to sew to support their family and build a better, self-sustaining life. Why not help fulfill someone’s sewing dream on the other side of the world?

If you do sign up and support someone, I’d love to hear about it!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Perhaps I’ll see you at the Our Social Fabric sale!

34 Responses to How I Helped a Woman in Tajikistan Buy a Sewing Machine

  1. Vicki September 21, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    Colette Patterns has a lending group, and there are ~90 of us that fund sewing related loans together. Come take a look here: http://www.kiva.org/team/colette_patterns

    The loans usually get filled up in a day or two – they are actually “back filled” by loaners (http://www.kiva.org/about/how/more), but contrary to some critics, I don’t see anything wrong with that. How can people critisize small business loaning?!? I guess some people can see the bad in anything…

    • Tasia September 21, 2012 at 9:00 am #

      That is so cool! 90 of you, wow. It’s amazing to see the impact as a group!

      You’re right, people can criticize anything, but I think it’s a wonderful concept, $25 to us can mean the world to someone else and why not help if we can?

      • Thea September 21, 2012 at 10:04 am #

        I think it’s great you’re spreading the love of sewing for the greater good, so to speak, but I did pick up a bit of the debate around it.
        It’s all a bit of a minefield in academia, I think, when it comes to development and small loans (I did quite a bit of that at uni), so yes, they will argue to the death of it and find points to critique :-)
        One of the arguments is that women tend to get a lot more loans than men, especially on websites like Kiva, so that in the end, men have a harder time raising loans. And then academics will have a fight about whether this is good or bad for gender relations and gender related violence (e.g. if the men feel disempowered, because women are more successful economically, they might be more aggressive towards women). I guess other criticisms, like the impact of the picture (also gender related) on the donor, doesn’t hold if you go by business type like sewing!
        So, yes, academically, you can take it apart, and it works better in some places than others, depending on all sorts of factors, over which academics will also argue.
        So I wouldn’t be too discouraged by the criticism, but it is there, and sometimes valid. Hope this shines a light on some of the criticisms…

        • Tasia September 21, 2012 at 10:15 am #

          Interesting! Thanks for sharing. You’re right, out of the 5 loans I have now, 1 is a man and the other 4 are women. It’s because I searched for sewing but you are correct about that, and I’m just one person!
          The first loan I made mentioned it was part of a women’s business initiative in that country, a program set up for women specifically. So I wonder if that’s to even things out between men and women, or if there’s the same number of programs for men and for both genders. And often they say they’re helping to support the family, which is good for everyone involved.
          I’ll try to think of that when making more loans and look to balance the men-women ratio if there are men looking for sewing loans. I know it doesn’t have to be *all* sewing-related too, that was what drew me to choosing the person to loan to in the first place.
          It’s interesting to think of both sides and consider our impact. It’s a bit unreal to think that something I click from the comfort of my computer can have such a impact on society on the other side of the world, besides just helping someone start their business.
          I appreciate the comment! Thanks for sharing.

        • Vicki September 21, 2012 at 10:31 am #

          Oh, I work in academia, so believe me, I know all about people who like to disect things to death! ;)
          I’ve worked and travelled a lot in developing countries, and frankly, I see women working their asses off trying to scrape some cash together in the limited ways they are allowed (farming or making things in their homes and selling in marketplaces), while the men seem to have more formal moneymaking opportunities. Not to say that I don’t loan to men, even sewing men!
          Muhammud Yanus wrote “Banker to the Poor” about founding the Grameen Bank system, and about his decades of experience working out the kinks in microloaning. He is pretty firm on the notion of loaning to women as a better return on investment and a greater impact on the families. In his experience, as women begin to bring monetary input to the family, their value tends to go up and they experience *less* violence. I heartily recommend his book to anyone who is interested in developing areas!

          • Sewing Princess September 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

            Vicky thanks for suggesting this book I will look it up right now. Sounds very interesting.

  2. Bess September 21, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    I try and put aside money for Kiva every month. It’s not only a great idea, it’s a pretty safe place to keep your money, too — Kiva loans have lower recidivism rates than loans in industrialized countries.

    • Tasia September 21, 2012 at 9:01 am #

      That’s wonderful! I didn’t think of it like that but that makes sense. Plus it’s all spread out into small chunks so there’s less risk. (Or it feels that way to me anyways.)

  3. June September 21, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    I used your link and went for a “trial” loan – so I hope this works out for the borrower! Thanks for the heads up about this organization.

    • Tasia September 21, 2012 at 9:03 am #

      Wonderful! Thanks and I’m happy to spread the word about organizations doing good in the world.

  4. Anne September 21, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Wow, this is terrific. I’ve spent the last 3 hours browsing their website learning about Kiva, and I love what they’re about – what a great way to give back to the community! I joined through your link and a sponsor gifted a $25 credit… which I chose to donate to a different lady in Tajikistan who is also trying to start up a sewing business! (http://www.kiva.org/lend/474266) I’m also making a donation to help a man in Costa Rica who’s hoping to sustain his coffee farm. Thanks for this post! :)

    • Tasia September 21, 2012 at 9:06 am #

      I’m so happy to hear that! I think anyone that signs up through my link (the ‘invite a friend’ link) gets the credit from a sponsor, that’s how I got my first credit too. It says limited time, so I suppose it’s whenever there are sponsors available.

      That’s wonderful that you’ve already made a loan, two loans in fact! I feel good about this post and happy that people are interested in Kiva.

  5. Tasia September 21, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Thanks so much to everyone that signed up to Kiva – this is so wonderful! As of now eight people signed up from my invite which gave me $200 to redistribute into new loans. (Which I’m doing right now, thanks again!)

    If you do get a credit for signing up, note when it expires, they don’t last too long so it’s best to use it quickly!

  6. maddie September 21, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    wow! You really have a generous heart. How lucky that lady must be to have your support. This is really touching. I can’t say it enough.

    • Tasia September 21, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      Thank you so much! I’m touched that so many people signed up after I mentioned it this morning, and Jo Ann below mentioned she’s been doing it for years, continuing to finance new loans as the original ones get repaid.

      It’s a day full of good feelings today, a wonderful way to start the weekend!

  7. JoAnn Beroiz Ely September 21, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    I have been a Kiva member for a very long time and set aside money from my alterations business for helping other seamstresses all over the world. I think the connection is so important when you spend hours slaving over projects for customers using the latest machines and tools and fabrics and then realize some women who want to support their families and send their children to school have so little to make a real business. The thought that $25 can go so far in providing a machine and supplies is wonderful. When the loan is repaid it just gets recycled to the next seamstress and so on and so on.
    See all the happy faces of my sewing sisters: http://www.kiva.org/lender/joann7884

    • Tasia September 21, 2012 at 11:56 am #

      Wow!! Jo Ann, this is amazing. You’re helping so many people around the world! That was the part I was drawn to, the fact that $25 or $50 is such a huge amount of money to someone and can really make a difference. I’m hoping to do the same thing, when the loans are repaid I’m going to keep on lending it out over and over again, just like you’re doing. I hope that I can be doing the same thing for a long time too. Thanks for sharing, it’s very inspiring!

  8. michelle September 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    aw darn, if only you told us sooner! i would have totally helped fund her as well! i guess i will have to look at similar loans in the future. (:

  9. Nothy September 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Thanks for posting this Tasia. I would love to help someone starting a small business. And i like that the loan is fair and the woman won;t be mired in debt forever.

  10. anne jewell September 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    this is an inspiring post, tasia! gospel for asia is one of my favirite charities and they have a similar project. –anne

  11. twotoast September 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Wow, that is a great idea – I am now signed up and helping a lady in Pakistan to buy an overlocker (serger) for her business.

    I like the idea of putting aside some money each month to help out and then re-lending the money as it is repaid.

    Thanks for the link!

  12. Denise September 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    I’m a fan of Kiva, and regularly look for Home Ec related businesses when I make a loan. My next loan will hopefully be to someone looking to buy a sewing machine!

  13. Sarah September 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    I use this site, it’s awesome! Such a good feeling to help someone achieve a goal like that, something that will improve their life :)

  14. Aija September 21, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    Do they tell where the name comes from? It means ‘nice’ in Finnish :)

    • Anne September 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      I read an article by Kiva’s field partners (who travel abroad for Kiva in these countries)… it says, “Because they will ask: Kiva means ‘unity’ or ‘agreement’ in Swahili.”

  15. Jane September 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    I like you even more now Tasia! What a lovely thing to do. I’m going to take a look at Kiva now.

  16. Caitlin September 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    I signed up through your invite and decided to help a farmer and his family business. I hope you don’t mind I didn’t pick something sewing related for my first loan. I am keeping an eye out for something to support using my own money now. So will definitely keep an eye out for for a sewing related loan request. Supporting traditional handcrafts definitely interests me.

  17. Nienke September 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    thank you Tasia for posting this! I had heard about Kiva before, but somehow postponed signing up for it. I just signed up ! I hope you got the referral fee, it was a bit unclear to me how that part worked.

    You’re really inspiring btw, it was because of you that -after reading about Dress for Success over and over- I finally signed up as a volunteer nearly 1 year ago now :) It’s so empowering to dress women and make them feel good :) It’s truly a great organization that makes a huge difference! so thank you!!! :)

    • Tasia September 27, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      Well thank you! I’m so glad you were inspired to volunteer at Dress for Success. Isn’t it amazing the difference between the people coming in, and when they leave? Clothes might seem superficial but they can make a huge difference in someone’s confidence level.

  18. Sewing Sveta October 16, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    This is perfect idea. But do somebody control how they spend your money or something like this?
    Sorry we here (in Russia) are very suspicious people%( Because there were too much incidents with charity and so one.

    Have the members something like business plan may be? Can we somewhere see her dress?

    I pretty good know the situation in Tajikistan, this is pretty poor country%( The fabrics there are very cheap(some my friends travel there regularly and saw the prices), so I just want to understand how the money work.

    Sorry for my not very positive comment%(

    • Sewing Sveta October 16, 2012 at 9:37 am #

      I just thought about all this because 1000$ is huuuuuuuuuuuge amount for Tadjikistan(as you can compare for annual income), so this amount for sewing machine and fabrics pretty big, also I can imagine the prices for the dresses there, pretty low, so I don’t know how her business can work%(

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