IMPACT
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

International 'Microlender' Sets Sights On Helping Hard-Hit At Home (AUDIO)

You may know the Web site Kiva.org for its groundbreaking use of microloans, which allow Americans to loan as little as $25 at a time to small business owners in developing countries. Now, NPR reported on Tuesday, Kiva has set its sights on helping hard-pressed entrepreneurs at home.

"Even before the credit crunch, small business loans were hard," said Premal Shah, the president of the San Francisco-based Web site. "Post credit crunch it's really, really hard. So, Kiva started thinking, 'Wow, we're allowing people in the developing world to request loans, why not un-crunch America and allow people here in the U.S. to request loans and see if the Internet community wants to fund them.'"

Kiva loans are a wonderful alternative for small business owners who have to overcome obstacles like buying large equipment without credit. But the decision to start loaning domestically has some Kiva lenders questioning the site and its mission to alleviate poverty.

"There are over 2 billion people in the world who live in extreme poverty," said Tom Behan, a retired marketing executive in Seattle. "Poverty is defined by the U.N. as trying to survive on less than $2 a day.

"It also means they don't have access to basic necessities that we have here in the U.S. ... and the services of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of religious and nonprofit groups that are dealing with every kind of need."

Listen to the NPR's story about Kiva.org and one of the American small business owners the site has helped:

What do you think about extending domestically the same kind of loans that poor business owners can receive abroad?

You can learn more about how Kiva works and even find a small business owner to loan to at Kiva.org.