November 26, 2013
At the beginning of the school year, incoming freshmen were assigned to read The International Bank of Bob by Bob Harris for their Freshman Seminar class. The book dove into the concept of microloans. Harris described how both Kiva.com and Finca.org allow people to loan small amounts of money to impoverished people in countries around the world to fulfill basic wants or needs, or to expand small business, send children to school, or buy a cow to provide food to their families.
In September, the freshmen and community around Avila were given the opportunity to see Harris speak when he visited the University. Harris told stories of how his microloans turned into worldwide adventures. He brought to life the idea that these small loans were making a world of difference when he actually met the people he had been funding from thousands of miles away.
After Harris’s speech, the freshmen students sold t-shirts to raise money to begin making their own microloans. After the sale was complete, the students had raised enough money for each teacher, student and mentor to make a $25 microloan. Some decided to make their own loans, others formed groups, and one class even decided to pool their resources to loan one lump sum.
On Nov. 25, each class had picked a few students to talk about not only who they made loans to, but also explained how the experience affected them and their ideas about the difference between loaning and charity. Students explained how Avila’s mission of helping the dear neighbor blazed the way of their efforts. Throughout each student’s presentation, there was a reoccurring theme - personal connections. Many students chose to loan money to people with which they felt a personal connection. Some said the idea of a single mother or family with many children made them think of home and how they in a small way could relate to these people.
It appeared most of the students’ loans went to Zambia, an extremely poor country in Africa. As of today, a few loans have already been repaid, and the credit Avila received from Finca.org has been reinvested into other microloans around the world. As many students expressed, even something they considered to be a small step toward creating a better life for others might actually be a large ripple effect felt all around the world.
About Avila University
Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.