A special visitor brought a new kind of economic model into Dana Rosingus' fifth-grade classroom at Gardnerville Elementary School on Oct. 18.
Jonathon Stalls shared his experiences walking across America to raise awareness about the mircrofinance Internet group, Kiva. As of Oct. 18, he'd been walking for 218 days from Delaware on his way to San Francisco.
Stalls told students he decided to take the journey in order to spread news about the nonprofit organization that lends money to small businesses around the world. He said he believes that microfinance is a significant first step in helping impoverished communities build contributing members who are confident, strong and capable. He shared photos of his journey and spoke about the people he'd met along the way, including his host family in Carson Valley, the Dillwiths.
"Our class got to talking about this organization and unanimously decided to be a part of it," Rosingus said. "Each student has agreed to loan a dollar that they have from savings or they have earned. It is very important that the dollar is not given to them but is theirs from saving or working. I want the students to see what their money can do, how it can make a difference, and the power that is within their good citizenship. With parent permission, we will be donating $25 to either an individual or group."
Rosingus said if the loan is paid back this year, then the class will reinvest it in another company. If the loan is not paid back until next year, then they will decide, as a group, how it will be invested.
"Our plan is to combine it with a loan from the next fifth-grade class, totaling $50 by the second year, and build each year," Rosingus said. "Our class would be the first at Gardnerville Elementary to make such a donation and may be the first class in the district. I think it would be a great opportunity to apply our fifth-grade history curriculum in a real-world situation."
Rosingus said the activity has exposed students not only to economics, but to the relationship between economics, government and major historical events.
According to a press release, Kiva's mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. As of November 2009, Kiva had facilitated more than $100 million in loans.
Kiva encourages partnership relationships, characterized by mutual dignity and respect, as opposed to benefactor relationships.