Microfinance, Made Easy

Kate Smith Milway may be a big businesswoman working with an international consulting group in Boston, but she seized on something very basic. She says,

“You ask any third, fourth, fifth grader, ‘Have you started a business?’ and they say, ‘Oh, yes, I sell Girl Guide cookies, I babysit, I walk dogs, I have a lemonade stand.’… Ask high-school kids how many started a business, and few hands go up, because by then business is a big, complicated thing.”

That is why she decided to write a children’s book. One Hen (subtitled How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference) explains the concept of microfinance in the developing world to children aged 8 to 12. Inspired by a true story, One Hen shares the story of Kojo, a small boy in Ghana who receives a small loan to buy a hen. He laters grows up to be the owner of one of the largest poultry farms in West Africa.

Then to expand on the book and its lessons, Milway partnered with Microplace and Opportunity International to start an organization. Its associated website (www.onehen.org) has many functions. On one hand, the kid-friendly site provides interactive games to further understand microfinance. In the game, kids earn and lend beads to Third World entrepreneurs, whose stories are featured. And on the other hand, the site leads to real financial investment. For each bead lent, the site makes a donation to one of Opportunity International’s entrepreneurs. The website also provides curriculum material for teachers and librarians.

What started with just one children’s book has sprung into something much greater. In just one year since the book was published, One Hen Inc has raised over $50,000 and lent it out as microloans to people in Africa. The organization is mostly volunteer-run, but hopes to continue educating the a new generation of socially responsible global citizens.