Congrats to the 336 most generous people I know

Friends of Bob Harris, the Kiva team growing out of my book project, went over the $250,000 mark this weekend!

To everyone involved, thanks! Your generosity is beyond belief.

Even more unbelievable, 13 hours into February, the team is ranked #1 Kiva-wide for the month (out of almost 17,000 teams), with more than $10,000 raised just so far today.

I really have almost nothing to do with this, other than being a bit of a cheerleader for some amazingly cool folks.

It's an honor. Truly.

Our Kiva team: $200,000 and counting!

Friends of Bob Harris, a team of 279 generous people I'm honored to nominally lead, has just passed the $200,000 mark in total funds raised.

That money has gone to help fund nearly 8,000 microloans to schools, clinics, and mom-and-pop businesses in more than 50 countries across the developing world.

If that's not specific enough, here's an example of what these loans do:

Meet Jacqueline, a mother of three in Kigali, Rwanda, who has used loans like these to grow a tiny business trading cassava and sweet potatoes into a small grocery store — thereby providing a better home, better food, and a better overall life for her beautiful children.

Jacqueline was generous and sweet in sharing her story for my book — a story typical of microfinance clients I've met on four continents so far.

Want to kick in a few bucks? You get paid back about 99 percent of the time, after all. Join us!

Our Kiva team passes $65,000 for December!

Friends of Bob Harris, the team I'm honored to "captain" (which means mostly just cheer while everybody else does cool stuff) at, just blew past the $65,000 mark for December — and over $100,000 total in the last two months of 2010.

[singlepic id=12 w=320 h=240 float=right] That money is lent — not donated — to doctors, clinics, farmers, and thousands of other deserving small enterprises in more than 50 developing countries worldwide.

This means that the 267 members (and counting) of our team get paid back about 99 percent of the time, then have the opportunity to reinvest, over and over again, while helping build economies all over the world.

It's a kick and an honor to be a part of this, and I'm loving the work of writing this book.

Congrats to Jonathon Stalls on his 3000-mile Kiva Walk!

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to join Jonathon Stalls for the last two days of his cross-country walk to raise awareness and funds for

Crossing the Golden Gate on a perfect morning

On Friday, I and the other taggers-along marched with him from the Golden Gate Bridge to Kiva’s office downtown, and on Saturday, a merry band of about 50 people did the Bay-to-Breakers walk to the Pacific, followed by a lap around the Presidio to reach a celebratory reception.

The Kiva baby at left is really the best looking one here

After just 20 miles total, two-thirds of one percent of Jonathon’s walk, my feet didn’t want to move for about three days. Not sure how Jonathon managed for eight solid months, but there it is, with over $400,000 raised to show for it.

Jonathon and his trusty sidekick finally reach the ocean

Congrats to Jonathon and everyone who supported his walk along the way! It was an honor to be there at the grand finale.

Jonathon, me, and Chelsa from

Jambo (“hello” in Swahili) from Kenya!

I’m writing from Nairobi after an amazing lap around Kenya for The 1st International Bank of Bob, my upcoming book for Bloomsbury about microfinance, my own Kiva lending experience, and my personal encounters with Kiva entrepreneurs and others all over the world.  (So far, my own repayment rate is vanishingly close to 100 percent — after 2029 loans, I’m down all of $31.82.)

Much of my time here was spent visiting with officers and clients of Juhudi Kilimo, a microfinance lender that focuses on Kenya’s rural population. It was a privilege to join them as we drove to small towns and villages in the countryside, meeting farmers and families whose whole lives are transformed — just by buying a cow with Juhudi’s help (and if you’re a Kiva lender investing in Juhudi’s loans, your help as well).

Mr. and Mrs. Mwangi of Murang'a show off their cool new cow

Think of a cow as a dairy farmer’s capital equipment, and you’ll see why this is so powerful: Juhudi has figured out a way for small farmers to finance a top-end hybrid cow that produces more than twice as much milk than a local cow, and for the farmers to pay off the investment in just one year — so the cow produces nothing but income for the rest of its life. In the first year, farmers get milk for the market in the morning and milk for the family in the evening — so they’re feeding the kids as well as ever while paying off the cow — but thereafter they have income to invest in their homes, their farms, and their children’s education.

Mrs. Mwangi's sister and her shy little boy

The kids were always the most fun to meet. They were almost always curious, friendly, and then playful like my own niece and nephew were at the same age.


(The lone exceptions were a few little ones who were frankly petrified at the sight of a human being with my strange skin tone. I didn’t know until this trip that there were still places in the world where this was possible, but oh yes — as one little girl who is probably still cowering under her mother’s skirt made abundantly clear.)

The most inspiring group I’ve met was this group of deaf farmers from Bureti, way out west halfway to Uganda.

The Bureti Self-Help Group for the Deaf, plus Nathan (2nd from left) and Fred (5th from right) from Juhudi, and some dude. Group chairperson Isaiah Arap Chepkulul is 4th from right.

They not only face the predictable challenges of any group of rural poor trying to pull themselves up, but they’re doing it in a society where deaf people suffer far more obstacles than they do in America. But they’ve committed themselves to supporting each other — even putting it in writing in a simple but powerful statement of purpose they’ve all signed.

The grace and welcome that flowed from these people when this total stranger showed up was more moving than I can describe.

Communicating was surprisingly easy. As deaf folks, they’re extremely skilled at making hand signals and understanding those of others, and when words were necessary, I could mumble in English, Fred from Juhudi would translate into Swahili, and one of the members with some hearing would translate this into sign language. And then the answer would come back around the same way.

But words were rarely necessary. Sitting with these sweet folks in a small wooden home, the love and mutual care they are providing each other is something I will be remember for the rest of my life. No exaggeration.

It may not seem like it, just pointing and clicking at, but you are sending more than a loan out into the world. For people like the Bureti group for the deaf, you are sending out love. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it.

I hope as you read this, you feel it, too.

Maybe you’ll even join my lending team and do some good right now.


And my profound thanks to the good people at the Nairobi, Murang’a, and Litein offices of Juhudi Kilimo. Your kindness will stay with me for as long as I live.

Hanging with the cool kids at Juhudi Kilimo in Litein.

PS — When the Bureti group’s loan comes up on Kiva, I’ll post a heads-up, because I want them to get financed in about twenty seconds. Thirty, tops. I hope you’ll join me in supporting them.