It’s the ethical Christmas gift that can help people in the developing world lift themselves out of poverty. A Lendwithcare gift voucher could be the answer for those looking for more meaningful, less costly Christmas presents. They allow Britons to lend relatively small sums of money to people in 15 countries who are keen to start or grow their own small business.
It is a peer-to-peer microfinance website set up by aid charity Care International UK.
When you buy someone one of its vouchers, they can go online to choose an individual to lend the money to. It might be a maize farmer in Ecuador, a small shopkeeper in Rwanda or an embroiderer in Pakistan. They will use the loan to start, or expand, their venture, thereby helping them feed their family and send their children to school.
The entrepreneur receives 100% of each loan. The idea is the money will be repaid, at which point the voucher recipient can withdraw it for themselves, or lend the cash to another budding entrepreneur.
The vouchers are a way for Britons to show support for people in countries such as Rwanda (where there is 31% annual inflation) and Pakistan (24% inflation) struggling to make a living amid the cost of living crises.
Joanna Lumley has been a Lendwithcare lender for six years and is also encouraging people to give “the gift of opportunity” this Christmas.
“Lendwithcare will do what you would surely do if you were there: enable people to start up their own small businesses by lending money, which they always pay back as soon as they can. I love this: it’s not a hand-out, it’s a hand-up, and I’ve been involved in this kind and thoughtful organisation for ages. Nothing but good can come from it. Do join me this Christmas and lend with care,” she says.
Since the website launched in 2010, more than 76,000 people have lent in excess of £42m to more than 174,000 entrepreneurs around the world.
About 52,000 gift vouchers have been bought since the scheme went live. They are available in various amounts, starting from £15, and can be emailed to the recipient or printed out.
Supporters can go on to the website to view profiles of the entrepreneurs and choose who to support. In most cases, the voucher will be a contribution towards the total amount the individual is looking for.
These are loans, not free gifts: the money is paid back in instalments to the local microfinance institution that has partnered with Care International, and then credited to the UK lender’s Lendwithcare account.
The 15 countries the scheme operates in are Cambodia, Ecuador, Georgia, Malawi, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Thailand, Togo, Vietnam and Zambia.