Friday, January 29, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Statistics of Clutter

The purge continues. Out out! Glass jars and various flotsam from the kitchen.

While surfing I found this article at: Becoming Minimalist.

  • The US department of energy reports that one-quarter of people with two-car garages have so much stuff in them that they can’t park a car.
  • According to the National Soap and Detergent Association, getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40 percent of housework in the average home.
  • The National Association of Professional Organizers says we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items.
  • Harris Interactive reports that 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late (and incur fees) because they lose them.
  • One in 11 American households rents a self-storage space, spending over $1000 a year in rent.
  • It costs an average of $10/square foot to store items in your home.
  • In a 2008 NAPO survey of 400 consumers nationwide, 27% said they feel disorganized at work, and of those, 91% said they would be more effective and efficient if their workspace was better organized. 28% said they would save over an hour per day and 27% said they would save 31 to 60 minutes each day.
  • Stephanie Winston, author of The Organized Executive, estimates a manager loses one hour/day to disorder, costing the business up to $4,000/yr if earning $35,000/yr – or $8,125/yr at $65,000).

I don't know about anyone else but we seem to be able to find inconsequential things, but never important things. While the receipt for a $12.00 trip to a local burger joint last March is safely in the file (why?) the receipt for the purchase of an expensive appliance which is under a year old (and is now trying to die) is nowhere to be found.

I find looking for things I should be able to find easily frustrating and exhausting. This entire process of clearing things out is going to be one of layers. Clear up one layer and go on to the next. My goal is to have nothing that I do not love, or need to function on a daily basis.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Every Day Should be So Productive!

We woke up to snow this morning, but the sun came out and quickly melted it all away. In the end it was a lovely day outside.

It was one of those rare and wonderful days inside too. I felt really strong and got so much done I am still basking in the glow. I'm already starting to get sore so I know I pushed my limits physically, but I have learned that a good day isn't necessarily followed by another good day, even if you are as careful as someone walking a tightrope over the Niagara Gorge. So while you got it - use it!

I went on a pitch 'n ditch, cleaning out closet, drawers, desk, bookshelves and cubbies. I threw away any clothing which was stained, tatty, faded, or "holey" and reorganized the drawers. Put together a thrift shop box for clothes I'd bought and didn't really like once I got home, and for books, magazines and craft supplies that need to find (other) loving homes.

Cleaned floors, bathroom shelves and drawers, caught up on the laundry, and spent an hour outside cleaning up branches and leaves in the garden. The grape hyacinths that I planted last fall are coming up! Sigh.... I can hardly wait to see those little purple blue flowers.

After dinner I washed the pans, finished loading the DW and ran it, set up the coffee pot for tomorrow and in a few minutes I will do my last chore of the day, which will be to put some pinto beans to soaking so I can make beans for dinner tomorrow night.

There's still plenty to do. I am hoping for a good day tomorrow which will allow me to whip my to-do list into temporary submission. But if I don't get that good day tomorrow I'll still be thrilled with all I was able to get done today.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Jewel in the Garbage

We went shopping yesterday. I had to pick up a prescription and there were a few items we needed. One of the items was a backup camera for the truck, because twisting in my seat to see behind when I back up is playing fits with my crooked spine.

Unfortunately there were no backup cameras to be found. As I turned from the counter at the last store, after being told they would not have any more backup cameras delivered until late March I was tempted to complain, but I thought of a quote I'd recently posted, "Not wanting something is as good as possessing it." - Donald Horban

I looked across at the vast selection of merchandise in this enormous store and thought, "There's nothing here that I even want! That's as good as having everything in the store!

So we have everything. Some people are dubious that a 240 sq ft house could possibly contain all the needs, let alone the wants of two people and a large cat. But I need to go through and purge. We have so much unnecessary stuff that it's appalling. We can't find things when we need them.

Leo points out on mnmlist that finding a particular book in an unorganized library can be difficult, but when you have five books it's no longer a problem.

It's weird, when I meditate I feel an urge to simplify, to purge the flotsam and jetsam from my life. I've been meditating a good deal in the past week. I find the news out of Haiti acutely painful, but I can cope with painful.

What I find hard to cope with (and thus the need for vigor in meditation) is my own anger at remarks made by people like Pat Robertson, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who, in turn, blamed the people of Haiti for the earthquake, advised Americans not to donate to relief efforts and said that President Obama is exploiting the crisis merely to seek favoritism among Blacks. No, actually my anger is directed at them, for their arrogance and their contempt for the agony of other human beings.

But the Buddhist is taught that the difficult is the best teacher, and so I should bow in gratitude to these three men who have provoked my outrage, and shown me so clearly that we - they and I - suffer from the same kleshas. (If that's not motivation to practice then I cannot be motivated!)

The kleshas are also called the five poisons and are:

  1. Passion (desire, greed, lust, etc.)
  2. Aggression (anger, hatred, resentment etc.)
  3. Ignorance (bewilderment, confusion, apathy etc.)
  4. Pride (wounded pride, low-self esteem etc.)
  5. Jealousy (envy, paranoia etc.)

Buddhism teaches that the kleshas can be pacified. They can never be completely eliminated, but if you can learn to recognize them in your own thinking, and realize how they poison your life and make you unhappy, you can train yourself to reject them until they lose their power over you.

The response of the enlightened mind toward the three commentators would be one of compassionate sorrow. They create their own hells of negativity. They are held prisoner by their own kleshas, as I am held prisoner by mine.

Buddhist teachers often tell of a beggar who finds a priceless jewel in garbage dumped by the road. I never quite understood that until now, but the pile of garbage represents the foul poisons of the mind, the self-righteousness, the anger, pride, jealousy and paranoia we create (and dump on others); then we find the priceless jewel of humility and compassion, right in the middle of our own garbage.

There's no denying the garbage, but the jewel allows us to see that everyone has the same jewel buried in their garbage. Instead of feeling angry and self-righteous when others spew garbage, we can fervently pray that they wake up, discover their own jewel and find happiness through compassion.

There's the intent to be compassionate, and then there's compassion in action. I love this example of compassion in action. As of today the folks at Shelterbox have distributed 3300 Shelter boxes in Haiti. Each has a tent which shelters ten people, beds, blankets, cooking utensils, dishes, a stove, equipment for purifying water, mosquito nets, and tools. In short the basic necessities of life for 10 people for six months. Wonderful!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lifted from Leo

I'm a great fan of Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and mnmlist. While reading through archived posts on mnmlist I found a page that contains many of my favorite quotes. Leo's mnmlist site is not copyrighted and may be shared, so I am here sharing them with you.

"Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you." - Lao Tzu

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." - Antoine de Saint-Exupe

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein

"Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours." - Swedish proverb

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand. We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without." - Henry David Thoreau

"Plurality should not be assumed without necessity." - William of Ockham (also known as Ockham's Razor)

"It looks like you can write a minimalist piece without much bleeding. And you can. But not a good one." - David Foster Wallace

"The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less." - Socrates

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." - Lao Tzu

"Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." - Albert Einstein

"A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

"The simplest things are often the truest." - Richard Bach

"Great acts are made up of small deeds." - Lao Tzu

"He who is contented is rich." - Lao Tzu

"Less is more." - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

"One can furnish a room very luxuriously by taking out furniture rather than putting it in." - Francis Jourdain

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

"We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you." - Lao Tzu

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." - Leonardo da Vinci

"... in all the things, the supreme excellence is simplicity." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." - Will Rogers

"If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life." - Wu-Men

"Simplicity is the essence of happiness." - Cedric Bledsoe

"Be wary of any enterprise that requires new clothes." - Henry David Thoreau

"Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art." - Frederic Chopin

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." - Hans Hofmann

"Eliminate physical clutter. More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter." - D.H. Mondfleur

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacker

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." - Confucius

"Simplicity, clarity, singleness: these are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy." - Richard Halloway

"Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify, simplify! ... Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose." - Henry David Thoreau

"We don't need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it." - Donald Horban

"People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results." - Albert Einstein

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day

In the Neighbourhood, a beautiful day for a neighbour, would you like to meet mine?

These are my virtual neighbours, people whose blogs I read on a daily basis, and who inspire me because they live my goals. Not that I want to live exactly as each of them do. We are all individuals and each of us is in a different place, and living a different set of circumstances. But all live mindful, caring lives and achieve the kinds of results I'd like to achieve.

The first neighbour I'll introduce is a young man named Thomas who lives in Massachusetts. Thomas grows a magnificent garden, cooks beautiful food, takes beautiful photos and seems to do it all with an amazing ease. He's also personable and friendly and I enjoy having him as my neighbour.

One of the things Thomas showed me how to do is build a hoop house for the protection of winter crops. I plan to do that at the end of next summer thanks to Thomas' inspiration and guidance.

Another virtual neighbour I visit daily is Gavin, an Australian dad who decided to go green, and has entertained and inspired me through the process. Recently Gavin and family have taken up the 100 Mile Diet Challenge. Gavin is the first person I've read about who has taken up this challenge without moaning and complaining about it. He's chosen a practical approach between eating local and adding a few of the imported luxuries we have all become accustomed to eating.

Because of reading about the 100 Mile Diet Challenge I'm much more mindful about where our food comes from. For example I put up as much locally grown produce as possible this past summer, and I have not bought a single green pepper or imported tomato this fall and winter. (I confess to buying some canned tomatoes for cooking. I also bought a box of mandarin oranges in December, and I've bought grapefruit shipped in from Texas. Well, I was shipped in from Texas. When I was a teenager we had grapefruit, oranges, tangarines, lemons, nectarines, peaches, dates and pecans, all in the yard! I can hardly bear what passes for oranges in the stores here, but a few times a winter I buy a half dozen grapefruit.) So much for the 100 miles, but I'm trying, and I am trying to gradually decrease the number of miles our food travels.

And of course no neighbourly introductions would be complete without introducing you to Rhonda Jean. Rhonda is about the best neighbour I could imagine. She and I are about the same age, have both raised a pair of boys, and have long-enduring partnerships.

But, unlike me, Rhonda runs a home my Grandmother would feel comfortable in. She is a back-to-basics kind of a gal. If you want to know how to make your own soaps and cleaners, put together a budget, bake a good loaf of bread or make a chicken feed 10 people, Rhonda should be your neighbour too. Her back yard is full of gardens, chickens, fruit trees and a healthy dose of common sense.

Today Rhonda talks about coming to the "simple life" on your own terms. Rhonda says she "reinvented" herself, and began to live life on her own terms when she gave up working outside her home and went to work for herself.

It's ironic. Most of the women in my generation looked at our mothers and their never-ending household "slavery" and said, "Not for me!" My generation exchanged the "slavery" of child care for the slavery to the paycheque. By the time I paid for child care, office clothes, transportation to work, makeup, hair cuts and lunches out I was lucky to clear $50 to contribute to the household expenses because women weren't paid anything like wage parity then (and still aren't).

Coming to our senses and coming home means that, with proper skills, a home can be run successfully and happily on a single paycheque. You can even raise your own children. (Now that's a revolutionary idea!)

It may not be for everyone, but except for a few years it was the route I took. I don't regret a minute of it, and we did well most of the time, but I wish I'd had some of the skills Rhonda teaches. We'd have done even better.

So, these are valued neighbours I visit every day. I visit others as well, but I can always count on Thomas, Gavin and Rhonda Jean to lift my spirits, inspire and gently teach and encourage.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wins Day

Well, it came on a Saturday, but it was a wins day all the same!

What day would not be a win which started with a big Totoro junkie finding this picture on

Okay, you well may ask, isn't a 64-y-o woman a little out of the "target" audience for this child's movie? Perhaps, but it is so beautifully done, with such charming innocence, that it captures the magic and both the fears and joys of childhood. We have the DVD (a gift from our younger son and d-i-l), and I watch it about every six months. In fact I think I'll spend part of my Sunday afternoon watching it, as just thinking about it makes me want to see it again. Here's the trailer, so you can see what I mean.

Well, after enjoying the Totoro picture, answering e-mail and doing a few chores it was off to town, where I found that the garden centre had a 75% off sale on Christmas items. I didn't even look at the Christmas stuff, except to note that it was in between me and the seed racks!

While a pair of 50-somethings gobbled with delight like turkeys and piled a huge cart full of fancy ornaments I circled the seed racks like a hungry condor. (I have birds on the brain apparently.)

I had gone in to buy seeds to grow microgreens (more about that in a later post) and found they were just putting out the spring seeds. Thirty-seven dollars later I had these in my basket:

  • Tomatoes: Chocolate cherry; Cherry Mix; Rainbow Blend Heirloom:

  • Beans: Blue Lake pole beans and Romano pole beans.

  • Squash: Crookneck yellow

  • Beets: Early wonder

  • Leeks:: Monstrous carentan

  • Onion: Red globe

  • Chard: Bright lights

  • Chicory Witloof

  • Lettuces: Mesclun salad mix and Mesclun spicy mix

I drive right along the lakeshore on my way home, and as I was nearing home I saw a raft of Trumpeter swans not 10 feet offshore. They are such beautiful birds, huge, with black beaks and long graceful necks. When they upend to look for food on the lakebed they look like small icebergs. At first that's what I was seeing, as there is some ice along the shore. But within a second about 20 necks and heads bobbed up. A few hundred feet farther down there was a second, smaller group. It was a thrill seeing them.

When I was a teenager living in Phoenix Arizona I read (and reread and reread) "Crusoe of Lonesome Lake", the story of Ralph Edwards, who as a teenager packed into the wilderness of British Columbia to build a cabin and a life beside the remote "Lonesome Lake". He found that the few surviving Trumpeter swans wintered at Lonesome Lake, and he and his family fed them and guarded them for many years, coaxing them back from the brink of extinction.

In the late 1970s I met Ralph Edwards, in a hospital in Prince Rupert BC. He was old and very ill, only weeks from death, but I was as thrilled and awed as if I'd been meeting the Queen. If you have a few minutes, there's a wonderful old documentary from the CBC on the life of Ralph Edwards. Well worth your time.

Sadly the Edwards homesteads (Ralph's and Ethel's, their daughter Trudy's and son John's) were completely destroyed in a forest fire a few years ago. The Edwards family is gone too, but their memorial could be said to be the trumpeter swans and when I saw those magnificent swans yesterday I thought of them, and my heart rose in thanks to them for their 40 years of backbreaking labor on behalf of these wonderful birds.

As a teenager I never dreamt I'd see a trumpeter swan, only miles from my own home in the BC mountains, a half century after I read Crusoe of Lonesome Lake". Funny how life takes you places you never dreamed you'd go.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Town Day

Today, after a long season of wittering about the condition of the roads, dealing with a never-ending migraine and various other bits and pieces, I will go to town!

The list is long, but includes visiting the garden centre and buying exciting gardening things, seeds and such, so I dance my little interior jig in anticipation.

I wanted to go to town yesterday but yesterday there must have been some kind of cosmic burr under the saddle of my day. I'd taken so much medication in the past week I think my poor body was in rebellion. I slumped around and did the necessary stuff but (honestly) never changed from my pjs all day. Of course my "pjs" are just an old soft pair of sweat pants and a sweatshirt, so they don't "read" as pajamas, but they don't exactly read as anything but slob if you are seen in broad daylight in them.

Just as it was getting dark a strange car parked outside and I began praying that it was someone to see the neighbours. Not my luck, not only was it a visitor but they'd brought someone we'd never met before to introduce us. (oh the shame)

They had no sooner gotten in the door when our close and dear friends Pat and Claude arrived, on their way home from holidays spent in Alberta.

So suddenly we had four guests and since I had started dinner and had the banquette piled with stuff we couldn't even seat all of them at once.

They didn't stay long (wonder why?). But an hour or so later I went into the bedroom to put a book in the bookcase and the cat wasn't sprawled across the bed in his normal place. He's usually asleep at that time. Like this...

We quickly looked the place over and then looked outside and saw the deck door standing open. I just felt sick. It is very cold and he's a big cream puff and not accustomed to being outside for more than five minutes at a time.

I got on my boots, coat, hat, gloves and got the flashlight and walked the entire neighbourhood looking for him and calling him. Nothing. We live below a busy highway and I was scared stiff he'd gone up there and gotten hit by a car or truck.

After my tour of the neighbourhood I came back by here to make sure he hadn't come home and out of the corner of my eye saw a flash of orange fur in the next door neighbour's yard.

Now, *their* cat had run out to me when I first went out and started calling, and he had walked the neighbourhood with me, but Salvador hadn't said boo. I went into their yard and got him, ready to strangle him, but happy to find him alive and unharmed. I brought him home and he had to go in and out to check to see if the door was open a dozen times in the next hour.

Today is (so far better). I feel fine, I am dressed. (I will not schlep around in my pjs all day ever again!) Cat is here and has been in and out about 20 times today, gotta see if that door is open.

So, I will load the dishwasher and get myself on the road before anything amiss overtakes me! Seeds! Oh boy!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Snow Day

"Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky,

it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees;

snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman,

opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

A Child's Christmas in Wales ~ Dylan Thomas

My Happy Birthday Present!

To my delight, Ian sent me a KIVA gift certificate for my birthday!

I went through and found another group of women who had requested a loan. I like loaning to groups of women, as I know they support and help each other and that appeals to me.

I chose to loan my gift certificate to the "St. Mary's Group" of Mankessim Ghana. The group consists of three women, two named Comfort and one named Janet. (Comfort must be a popular girl's name in Africa). The group's leader is 49-y-o Comfort. (shown seated in the photo). She is married and the mother of two children, both of whom are in school. She and her family live in a rented apartment.

Comfort prepares and sells pastries to other retailers. The other two members of the St. Mary's group are merchants. All three women will invest the money loaned in their businesses, and have agreed to repay the money over the next nine months.

So far every one of the six loans we've made is being repaid on schedule.

Thank you Ian! You know how to make your Mama happy!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Yours Sincerely, Wasting Away

The song closes with these words;

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,

Stating point of view

Indicate precisely what you mean to say

Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form

Mine for evermore

Will you still need me, will you still feed me,

When I'm sixty-four?

In 1966, I was 20 years old, so the lyrics of "When I'm 64" seemed whimsical. Sixty-four was as far away as Andromeda. Without knowing it, I was on a journey.

Today I'm waving to you from Andromeda, because at 7:05 CST this morning I turned 64. And, though my body frequently feels 104 (primarily during the first five minutes of the day) in my head I'm still unable to believe 64 is now me.

Am I different at 64 than I was at 20? Yes and, of course, no. I feel the last ten years have been the ones of most rapid personal growth, but I can remember thinking that of every decade.

This decade I embraced Buddhist philosophy. Technically Buddhism is not a religion. It has nothing to say about the existence (or non-existence) of a God. The Buddha is not considered divine and Buddhism does not involve worship of a deity.

Given that I was taught in church that illness and disability are signs of God's displeasure, and my mother (my religious parent) was ashamed of me and my disability, I felt both deep-seated guilt and anger at the injustice of being labeled "bad" for reasons entirely outside my control.

Since beginning my study of Buddhism I've recognized that I still live with a cauldron of simmering rage. Not in the context of raging at friends and family, but at injustice, at the sneering power of bureaucracy, at politicians and political forces which deliberately keep people all over the world in desperate poverty, anger at those who foster an "us against them" mentality for their own personal, political and economic power.

Anger and rage can easily consume a day and leave me miserable, but Buddhism has given me the tools to deal with these feelings. Here's how Buddhism has helped me:

It has allowed me to accept the Popeye mantra, "I am what I am". Where I once had to deny my anger, I can now look at it and say; Well, that's part of who I am. Taking away my anger could very well take away my motivation to try and make things better.

It's taught me to be gentle with myself. I've quit trying to "appear" perfect. I could never be perfect, but I put a lot of energy into trying to look as if I were.

It's taught me to be less demanding. By looking at myself honestly I can see I'm no different than anyone else. So I can understand others' anger, frustration, inaction, self-absorption better. I can even understand the traits I hate most, because if I look into myself with steady and uncompromising honesty, I see those traits in me.

It's taught me that I have everything I need to have a satisfying life, right here, right now. Resentments and self-pity are like millstones hung around your neck. Once you realize they are only there because you got up and tied them on, you also realize you can lay them aside and go on without them.

And my favorite, Let life teach you. As long as you struggle and fight against your personal demons you not only fail to learn, you create more anxiety, more resistance, for yourself. Instead of looking your demon (in my case anger) in the face and asking, "What are you trying to teach me?" you throw sticks, scream, kick, and battle it.

I love a quote from writer Pema Chodron; "Life's work is to wake up, to let the things that [come into your life] wake you up, rather than put you to sleep. The only way to do this is to be open, curious, and develop some sense of sympathy for everything that comes along, to get to know its nature and let it teach you what it will... the same old demons will come up again and again until finally you have learned your lesson, the lesson they came to teach you. Then those same demons will appear as friendly, warm-hearted companions on the path."

I'm lucky in that I've never seen age as a demon on the path. The time I have left will be spent conversing with the demon of anger, learning what it has to teach me about myself, and gradually becoming friends with both it and myself.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2010 Off On the Right Foot

I went to the KIVA site last night and was surprised (and delighted) to see that lenders had funded all the loans requested for December! KIVA has processed almost $115 Million worth of loans since it started in March of 2005.

But a new slate of loan requests were posted this morning, and this month our KIVA loan goes to (in the photo; left to right) Comfort, Joyce, Grace, Mary, Florence, Grace and Dora of Axim, Ghana where the average annual income is $2,643.

Comfort is the leader of the group called ‘Sunset’. Most of the members of this group are small traders, food vendors or farmers. In this group, members access the loan of $2,800 USD ($400 each) equally - and guarantee repayment for one another.

Comfort is 29 years old, widowed, and the mother of four children, all of whom are currently in school. She has run a small food store to make her living for five years. She sells locally popular foods such as yam, plantain, cassava and vegetable oil, etc. Comfort buys her stock from local farmers. This saves her from the mark-up of wholesalers who buy from the farmers and resell to the retailer at a higher price. She wants to use her $400 loan to buy more stock to meet the daily demands of her customers. She will use part of her profit to support her children's education, and part to expand her business.

This is our sixth KIVA loan and I was curious about how KIVA started, so I went to find out.

In 2004, Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley visited East Africa and witnessed the power of microfinance firsthand. Jessica conducted impact evaluation surveys for Village Enterprise Fund and Matt filmed interviews with small business entrepreneurs. They saw first hand how loans of only $100 - $150 had been used to start and expand small businesses which could then support a family. They heard stories of people who were able to sleep on mattresses instead of on a dirt floor, how parents could buy nutritious food for their families and send children to school.

Instead of meeting the poor and helpless, they found themselves meeting successful entrepreneurs who had generated enough profits from their small businesses to create a real impact on their standard of living.

This experience led them to three realizations:

  • We are more connected than we realize. Even in rural East Africa it was possible to them to remain connected with friends and family in the United States. Distance means little in the world of communication today.

  • The poor are very entrepreneurial. While the profit margins may be very different, but the spirit of entrepreneurship is as strong among the global poor as it is in Silicon Valley.

  • Stories connect people in a powerful way. As they listened to story after story of a fishmonger who needed enough money to buy directly from the fishermen at the lake, or a farmer who needed to buy a better breed of cow to produce more milk, Matt and Jessica knew that their friends back home would want to support these business ventures if they heard their stories. With each story came a human connection, despite differences in language, culture or levels of wealth.

Matt and Jessica returned from Africa with one question in mind: "How can we lend to a rural African entrepreneur?" But they soon found there was no way to make a microloan to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world. And it wasn't easy to figure out how to make it possible.

Thus began a year of phone calls and meetings with microfinance experts, lawyers, economists, Internet experts, and anyone else who would listen to their idea of lending to low-income entrepreneurs via the internet. After meeting a lot of skepticism they finally decided to just begin.

In March 2005, through a local contact in Uganda, seven loans were posted on Kiva for a total of $3,500. They included a goat herder, a fish monger, a cattle farmer and a restauranteur. Six months later every loan had been repaid. These original seven entrepreneurs became known as the "Dream Team" and proved it was possible to lend directly to the poor over the Internet.

In October 2005 Kiva announced to the world the first peer-to-peer microlending website... and the rest is history.

Since its inception Kiva has grown from a small personal project to one of the world's largest microfinance facilitators, connecting entrepreneurs with millions of dollars in loans from hundreds of thousands of lenders around the world.