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It all began three years ago in a Spanish class at Stratford San Jose Middle School, when 8th grade students in Ms. Sanchez’s class watched the documentary Living on One Dollar. In the film, four young friends attempt to live on less than one dollar a day in Guatemala, learning firsthand about hunger, hardship, parasites, and the crippling reality of what it means to be poor. Watching the film, our Stratford 8th graders were startled by the fact that over one billion people in the world consistently live on less than one dollar a day. They were also shocked to learn that 1 in 10 people do not have access to clean water, and that consequently 3.5 million people die from water related diseases every year. Recognizing the pain of payday loans loans Atoka so many people living without the ability to meet their most basic needs, the question how can we improve the livelihoods of families to help break the cycle of poverty? was posed across the school.
What is Microlending? This documentary, and the realization that it brought with it, sparked the idea of microfinancing with the students and connected them with the Kiva organization. Kiva is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Kiva acts as a micro-lending platform, or a place where people who need a loan and people who want to loan money can find and connect with one another. The idea of sending small loans directly to others in need quickly spread from the Spanish class to the Language Arts, Math, Science, History, Visual Arts, and Computer Science classrooms. The students were excited to start raising money and the Living on One/Kiva Project Club was officially born. Ms. Sanchez, along with Language Arts Teacher, Ms. Datta-Nawbatt, were inspired to lead this group of passionate students and began to meet on campus to plan their next steps.
The Kiva Project The mission of the Kiva Project Club was to collect funds, through student driven fundraisers, that could be invested directly into people; people who needed a financial leg-up to improve their circumstances, and the circumstances of their families. Stratford students learned that by giving people access to a low interest loan, they could impact someone’s quality of life in a meaningful way. The goal was to collect funds through innovative initiatives created by students, without the help of their parents contributing funds. Each 8th grade class brainstormed and executed their own fundraising event which included an art auction, a carnival, a raffle, recycling, and robust student sales of ice cream floats, boba tea, desserts, and more. Student fundraising teams mimicked real-life companies employing different departments to prepare proposals, create marketing and communication plans, set up budgets and accounting, and strategize sales. It was so wonderful to see the school community come together for a valuable, kind cause, declared Ms. Datta-Nawbatt.
After raising $855 in their first year of fundraising , the students moved on to the next step, researching the Kiva website to find individuals or groups who needed a loan. Kiva loans are requested to start businesses, pursue an education, make necessary home repairs, pay for health care, and much more. Reading the profiles of the people in need had the deepest impact on our students. Students connected to the stories of Cindolfo, a hard working man in Peru requesting funds to help pay for medicine for his wife, and Emma in Ecuador who needed a loan to buy supplies to continue operating a stationary store where she had worked for six years.
The students liked the idea of working with Kiva because it is much more than a donation. It is a way to help others sustain their well-being.
Making a Difference, One Loan at a Time Since the Kiva Project Club’s founding in 2018, Stratford San Jose Middle School students have raised nearly $5,365, funding 554 microloans to families and individuals, in 33 different countries around the world. Since most of the loans are paid back, the money can be re-loaned to others in need to continue the lending process and increase the positive human return on each investment. The total money that the students have lent out, after recirculating, is $14,125.
After seeing the positive results of their efforts, San Jose Middle School student, Neel Sudhakaran was motivated to spread the the word to other campuses. A second Kiva Club was formed at Stratford De Anza Park with guidance from P.E. teacher, Ms. Amudha, and Spanish Teacher, Ms. Tormo.
Prior to the pandemic, the Kiva Club was pleased to bring the Living on One Dollar documentary director, Chris Temple, to speak at an assembly for the entire school via skype. This year, unable to raise funds in-person due to the pandemic, students in the Kiva Club continued to meet monthly online and educate themselves about the lending process. Ms. Sanchez remarks that they have seen so many positive outcomes from this club, noting that through helping others to meet their needs, our students have become more empathetic, understanding, and compassionate global citizens.
What’s Next? Once the students are back to school full time, they are planning to resume their in-person fundraising efforts, increase the amount of loans they can offer, and multiply the positive outcomes for as many people in need as possible.
What we have all learned from the inspiring work of this club and these students, is that one small idea put into action can significantly change the lives of others.
As proud as we are of our students’ academic achievements, we take the most pride in watching them grow into caring young adults who give back to their communities through compassionate service initiatives. Stratford students bring their passion and skills to leadership roles inside and outside of the classroom, said Sherry Adams, Founder and President of Stratford School. We are proud to see our San Jose Middle School’s Kiva Project Club members, and our devoted faculty, exemplify Stratford’s uplifting culture of connection and care to the global community.