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Customer Review

102 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars loved everything about this!, February 4, 2013
This review is from: The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Disclaimer: I am a HUGE fan of Kiva and have lent over $30k in the past 8 years and am on track to reach $35k by the end of this year (my hero is kiva lender "Good Dogg" who has lent over $2 million!!!). I think it's just about the best thing to happen to those of us who love giving and those who need funds! While Bob and many others have lent a whole lot more, it's about doing what you can, and hopefully loving it as you do. I do not know Bob or anyone else associated with Kiva. The other two reviews on at this time cover the contents of the book so I'm going to focus on it's impact in my life.

I am so glad to see someone write a book about Kiva. While Bob may not be an ordinary lender in that he has a) travelled the world as a paid writer (unique gifts that allow him to have a terrific view of microfinance, kiva, lenders and borrowers) and b) had the gift of spending a lot of time with a wide variety of people involved in all aspects of the above--Bob still remains a regular guy.

I LOVED Bob's conversational writing style. As a fan of footnotes, this book is a dream! There are footnotes on almost every page. Some informative, some just plain entertaining. Whether you are reading this book to learn more about microfinance in general, Kiva specifically or because you're a giver who loves reading about other givers--this is a fabulous book.

While this book is definitely a fact-filled, informative source of the successes, failures and challenges of microfinance and it's role in eliminating poverty around the globe, it is also an entertaining, moving, and encouraging book. I particularly enjoyed getting answers to some of the questions I would ask borrowers: is the interest charged by the MFI's an undue burden (NO), has this loan really changed your life for the better (YES). It also answered questions I had about whether MFIs help borrowers in areas of financial mgmt, education, etc (YES).

Throughout the book Bob connects his parents and their own roots in Appalachian poverty (and their hard work to make that poverty a distant memory for Bob as he grows up) with just about everyone he meets. He has the gift of seeing his parents and their dreams everywhere he goes and in all manner of people who are using microfinance loans to change their lives. He frequently reminds us that the "birth lottery" drives a whole lot of our lives--the opportunities (or lack thereof) that we each have are in fact heavily dependent on what culture, region, socio-economic class, wealth, education, values, and even geography we are born into. I was glad to see him focus on this reality as I am extremely aware of this truth when I travel to developing areas.

I appreciate the hard facts and realities in this book (Bob visits Bosnia and Rwanda and other places devastated by wars and genocide where hard, painful, ugly truths abound) being tempered with plenty of glimpses of hope and healing and humor. While he frequently thinks/asks "how are you not insane" as he sees and hears the horrors, he inevitably winds up back at love:
"anything we do gets its meaning from the reason we do it--usually, the people we do it for. The part of ourselves that we give to to others in our efforts--that's where we find our own value"
"maybe life takes on meaning to the degree that our efforts and love are connected"
"maybe the world has at least this much fairness: as long as a person can love, their life matters"
"you love more, you win"

This book captures the excitement of reading the bios of borrowers and deciding to invest in their future and, for Bob, seeing how that plays out. Above all, I would call it a relational book...knitting the world a little bit closer together, one word at a time. If I had to pick two of those words that would best sum up the overall tone of this book they would be love and hope. How often does a book dealing with finance get summed up that way?

* I became interested in microfinance when Yunus/Grameen hit the world stage with the Nobel Peace prize. I did a bit of research at the time and thought it was a brilliant idea. Enter Kiva not long after offering regular folks an opportunity to lend to other regular folks...25 lifechanging dollars at a time. People pooling together their small resources to effect big changes all around the globe. I keep some of my long-term savings "invested" in my kiva account and it pays me better "dividends" than anything else I own. I hope this book encourages others to participate in being a part of someone elses dreams.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 5, 2013 5:14:20 AM PST
Ms Winston says:
I stumbled across this book by accident and am going to purchase it -- not just because I, too, am a KIVA lender, but due to your review as well. This is one of the most exciting outreaches I have encountered, and it is has been adopted as an official project of the (local) chapter of the Woman's Club to which I belong.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 10:36:34 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 5, 2013 11:32:41 AM PST
Living it up says:
Hi Ms Winston, Glad my review helped, but we both know you would have bought it anyway :>). I hope the book energizes your Woman's Club and inspires them to up their involvement in kiva.
Kiva is a great group project. It's easy to have goals and contests (for the next two weeks let's lend to seamstresses/tailors, Mongolians, women holding fish, as many countries as possible, etc. You can "dedicate" your loans as well. Oh, and definitely join a team or two..they can be grand fun and I guarantee there are multiple teams that will interest you (regional, topical, faith-based, civic, quirky--Nerdfighters?!)
I've been investing a percentage of our income just like I would with retirement/charitable giving. The great news is that barring a complete collapse of each and every individual, KIVA, MFI, etc involved, we will have a nice "retirement" account in 20 years that will have "grown" at an unprecedented rate as it lends, relends, etc...$25 at a time It will be the highest return on an investment I've ever had. In the extremely unlikely event it were to all disappear it still isn't the end of the world as I would have donated it somewhere else anyway:>).
Kiva is a win/win/win/win for me!

FYI: for kiva newbies; if you should decide to invest regularly know that kiva has a link on your lender page showing your repayment schedule. Once you build up a big portfolio of loans, you'll have hundreds/thousands in repayments every month. There is no cost to withdraw funds from your account.
I try to picture this as a charitable annuity type of investment. When we need the money, at any given time, about 8% of it is paid back each month and available to withdraw.

For fun and motivation I followed my first loan through the past 5-1/2 years and that $25 has been on quite a journey!

9/07, Agapito, Ecuador, Fish Seller

11/08, Rose, Sudan, Charcoal Seller

1/10, Sira, Dominican Republic, Used Clothing Sales

9/10, Saydee, Liberia, Used Shoe Sales

3/11, Nemesia, Mexico, purchase poultry

10/11, Sharshenberk, Krygyzstan, purchase cow

6/11, Flamousso, Mali, seeds & fertilizer

11/12, Gonzalo, Mexico, converting coffee crop to organic (paying back now)

One $25 investment has travelled the world and been loaned 8 times in five years...8 lives given hope and better quality of life--8 people who know someone cares about their future.
$25 left in my savings account during the same time frame is worth ~$22 given non existent interest rates and avg 3% inflation per year.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 11:51:45 AM PST
Ms Winston says:
I have four loans out and all are being repaid -- 2 dairy farmers in Central Asia, a lady who sells popcorn in Pakistan, and an auto mechanic in Lebanon.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 11:55:44 AM PST
Living it up says:
Where else but kiva could you partner with a Pakistani Popcorn Proprietess???

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 1:59:26 PM PST
Ms Winston says:

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 27, 2013 7:38:08 PM PDT
I have a sister that lost her job, and is having a very hard time. She got quite depressed last holiday season, and a lot of it was due to the fact that she can no longer be as giving as she used to be.
When I heard about Kiva, I immediately bought her a gift card. She had a blast looking through all the requests, and finally settled on helping a man build a home. BEST gift ever, it helped her just as much as the recipient.

Thanks for your review. I wasn't aware of this book but happened to notice a review of yours on an item that I also had reviewed, so glad I did! I'll be buying this book, too!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 27, 2013 8:47:23 PM PDT
Living it up says:
What a GOOD sister you are, and what a brilliant gift! Givers really do hurt when they can't give and it was beautiful of you to help your sister "feel like herself again." Giving is obviously in your family's DNA :>)

Posted on Dec 17, 2013 8:30:02 AM PST
helianthus says:
Are the sales proceeds of this book officially used for KIVA (is it mentioned in the book), or are they at Bob's discretion?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2014 10:13:41 PM PDT
Living it up says:
That's a good question but I don't know the answer.

Posted on Dec 9, 2015 10:00:34 AM PST
BeachBunny says:
Would you be willing to post what your default rate has been? Also, any tips/advice on what to look for in the loans? Anything to avoid?

I like the concept and don't mind lending money, but would like to know realistically how much this endeavor will end up costing. I know it's for charity, but at the same time I don't want to end up over-extending myself if large % of payments fail to materialize.
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