Microlending website Kiva will now expand its program to grant loans to college students across the world, and USC’s own Kiva chapter plans to help make that happen.Lenders can now give as little as $25 to students in Paraguay, Lebanon and Bolivia and give them the opportunity to gain essential skills through higher education or vocational training.The members of [email protected] plan to promote this goal by explaining to other students just how easy it is to get involved and help those in need.“Kiva empowers all of those who are involved in the process,” said Raheem Parpia, the founder of [email protected] “I know people at USC who will spend $25 at the 9-0 [Bar & Grill] in one night. Why not put that money toward a cause that honestly saves the lives of the people that receive these loans?”[email protected] is particularly enthusiastic about the new decision to expand loans to college students, Parpia said.“You’re taking two important aspects — giving loans to people who will use them in the best possible way and the opportunity for an education — and combining the two together,” Parpia said. “Education is the most important thing for a person who wants to be financially independent, so I’m glad that Kiva is recognizing this and reacting to it.”Kiva traditionally provides an online medium for people to offer loans to aspiring small business owners in impoverished nations. Lenders can log on to the website and browse through different profiles and decide on whom to loan their money. Now, that decision will be extended to college students.Shaked Peleg, the current president of [email protected], said he has come up with numerous ways of getting the word out about the organization.“We had a ‘Kiva Takeover’ last semester where we set up booths on McCarthy Quad and in Alumni Park representing the different businesses that we have helped lend money to,” said Paleg, a sophomore majoring in economics and international relations.Last year, [email protected] raised approximately $13,000 in loans, surpassing the original goal of $10,000.The club often works with local restaurants to raise money for the organization.“We worked with a USC alumni-based restaurant, Wurstkuche, in Downtown Los Angeles where on one night 15 percent of their revenue went towards [email protected],” Parpia said.Raheem Parpia, the former president of [email protected] and a 2010 graduate of USC, founded the club in the spring of 2009 after learning about Kiva while doing research for a paper for an international relations class.“At first, I was taken aback as to why I had never heard of this concept before. I thought to myself, ‘Why isn’t this a more popular idea?’” Parpia said. “So I started this club as a conscious effort to encourage students to connect to and help those who didn’t have the same privileges as them.”Alexandra Cook, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism, said she believed donating to Kiva provided a way for college students to get involved with bigger world issues.“I think it’s a great opportunity for USC students to give back to others who are less fortunate than them,” Cook said. “I think people are afraid to give money to organizations like this because if they don’t have a lot to donate, they feel like it’s not worth it. If everyone just gave $5 it could make an amazing difference in someone’s life.”To date, Kiva has lent almost $163 million to entrepreneurs in 207 countries.
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