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Some like it H.O.T.


Like-minded Oklahoma microlenders spread the wealth worldwide.

Kevan Goff-Parker August 15th, 2012

Karen Alexander grew up in Saudi Arabia, the expatriate child of an oil company worker. A lifetime of traveling gave her a sense of gratitude for the opportunities available to U.S. citizens — and made her aware of the hardships endured by many.

After settling in Oklahoma City after high school, she began looking for a way to participate in her community while engaging with international issues. In May 2007, she joined Kiva. a California-based nonprofit that allows people to lend as little as $25 to worldwide entrepreneurs in need of capital.

By forming “lending teams” through Kiva, individuals work together to provide funding. Alexander subsequently founded the Heartland Oklahoma Team, or H.O.T.

Today, she co-captains H.O.T. with Tulsan Carla Robinson. The team now boasts 280 members who collectively have made more than 18,675 loans worth nearly $500,000.

“Forming H.O.T. seemed like a good way to pull like-minded people together so we could further Kiva’s mission,” Alexander said. “Most of us don’t know each other in person, but the one general sense you get from our members’ online posts is that Oklahomans have big hearts and feel that we have so much. And they want to give back to people.”

Alexander’s first Kiva loan was to Alba, a woman in Ghana who earned income by cracking stones, usually to sell as construction material. The money was part of a $1,000 loan to help the woman purchase more stones.

Today, Alexander has loans to entrepreneurs in 56 countries. Although lenders can withdraw their money once it is repaid, she said nearly all continually re-lend. Her own loan-repayment rate is 99.3 percent.

Christine Young, a retired nurse from Lawton, joined H.O.T. after a friend gave her a $25 Kiva donation card for her birthday.

“I was so excited when my first entrepreneur paid back his loan that I started adding another $25 here and there,” said Young, whose repayment rate is 98 percent. “I’m now on my 260th loan.”

In light of the oppression facing many women around the world, Young said she prefers lending to women who are in difficult situations.

“Everyone needs food, clothing and shelter, plus a belief in something higher than themselves,” Young said. “Kiva is something I’ve become very passionate about, and I’ve recruited several friends and established several e-friendships. It is addictive and exciting to give others a hand up.” For more information, visit kiva.org/team/heartland_oklahoma.

 
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