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Microloans for Christmas

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In this UMTV encore that aired in 2010, a United Methodist college student in Pennsylvania created an alternative to traditional Christmas gift giving. Microloans made in a recipient's name allow monetary gift to empower farmers and small business owners in Africa before being paid to the intended recipient. Reed Galin explains how this form of alternative giving works.


(Locator: Meadville, Pennsylvania)

In December, northeast Pennsylvania can look like a winter wonderland. Students at Allegheny College don't let a foot and a half of snow keep them from classes or their Christmas lists.

Student: "It's actually a pretty cool gift idea, yeah, it is."

In a corner of the bustling student union, Ben Dempe is encouraging his friends to partner with a farmer in Zimbabwe. Ben is selling Christmas cards that give twice first to a microloan program and then back to the gift recipient when the loan is repaid.

Ben Dempe: "That money is going to go to your parents, or whoever is receiving the gift, but first it will be given to an entrepreneur in Zimbabwe."

In 2008, Zimbabwe's economy collapsed. Farmer Kanyora Naison is trying to recover. He's seeking a $550 loan for an irrigation system.

Michel Maiorana, Allegheny College: "This way you actually know it's going to a particular person."

Nikki Johnson, Allegheny College: "You know that the money is going to go to what it should go to, and it's going to actually help the irrigation system. It's gonna help this man pay for his kids to go to college."

An economics major, 21-year-old Ben designed the microloan program himself.

Ben Dempe: "We focused with agricultural programs, raising chickens, buying and slaughtering cows."

He was the first intern for the "Nyadire Connection" a United Methodist organization which serves an area of 500,000 people with a hospital, orphanage, school, and training programs for teachers and nurses.

Ben helped select the first two loan recipients from 24 worthy candidates.

Ben Dempe, Microloan Program Creator: "A lot of these people have already done projects like this. They just need the money to be fronted and they can start the projects and pay all the money back to us and we can take that money and go find another individual."

The Rev. Kimberly Greway, Ben's pastor from Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church, suggested the internship. She is pleased with the outcome.

The Rev. Kimberly Greway: "That Ben, a rising junior, can have impacted families in ways that are going to help educate their children, to survive during droughts, it's just incredible."

The Christmas cards are the first step in Ben's dream to be able to grant 100 loans.

Ben Dempe: "I never want to forget my experience with the people. I have a picture of me with the kids and that's so I can never forget my summer."


The Nyadire Connection launched a pilot microloan program in 2010. That project proved successful and the program expanded in 2013. Learn more about Microloans through the Nyadire Connection.

For more videos like this, visit our Advent and Christmas page.


This story was first posted in 2010.



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