How One “Wishie”, A $25 Loan, and a Whole Lot of Community Gives Hope to Formerly Trafficked Women in India

Guest post from Sourabh Sharma, co-founder & CEO of Milaap Social Ventures.

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What would you say if you knew that with a simple good wish, you could literally and completely change a working mom’s life?

And that many of these moms are former Indian Devadasis, forced into the sex trade because of an ancient and outlawed cultural tradition?

And that when you make the wish, you also help these women secure a $25 loan from generous corporate funds.

I suspect you’d make that wish. Well, this is exactly what Milaap lets you do, all through the power of online community and collective goodwill. Let me explain.

Milaap (“mill-ahp”) means “unity” in Hindi, and is an organization that marries micro lending and crowd funding for sustainable change. What exactly does that mean?

You’ve heard of, or perhaps even made loans via, micro lending platforms… platforms that let entrepreneurs source several small loans from multiple sources, as opposed to, say, one big loan from their bank.

Well, Milaap does that… but we take it a step further.

We encourage investors from all around the world to lend individually and collaboratively, via social fundraisers hosted on our platform, to micro-businesses started by India’s working poor, in fields as diverse as water, energy, sanitation and education. So literally, when you lend a little, you end up changing a lot.

What’s key to a platform like Milaap is finding ways for people to come together online, to support the causes we showcase. It’s that critical element of community that drives them to lend, and we hear wonderful stories as a result.

Here are five stories about how our community is helping to change the world:

  1. Milaap’s Director of Global Outreach, Ami Doshi, enlisted the help of her little ones for her International Women’s Day fundraiser. It was the first time her kids cracked open their piggy bank to help one of our borrowers. Azara and Cyrus Patel lent $51 (the $1 was for good luck) towards their mother’s fundraising campaign, which raised $1,000 for ex-Devadasis. Milaap’s social fundraising concept was simple enough for a five-year-old to grasp.
  1. Some enlist the help of family, while others gather their friends. A perfect example of unity is a fundraiser spearheaded by 12 friends. These 12 incredible women raised over $10,000 in just under a week on Milaap, all because they believed in change and the power of community.
  1. At the end of 2013, we organized a meet-up for like-minded folks in conjunction with the Indibloggercommunity, in both Bangalore and Mumbai.These were attended by over 150 bloggers who were motivated enough to spread Milaap’s message of empowerment to their communities. They raised over $4,000 and counting through their networks alone.
  1. Our borrowers aren’t to be outdone, either. One of them, Ambika, used her Milaap loan to become a designer. She turned into her own successful sari printing business. Now, twice a week Ambika goes to the local Self Help Group building to work with her fellow loan recipients, which includes five tailors. Together they make about 10 saris a month, for an income of INR 1,000 to 2,000 R ($16 – $18) each, and while that might not seem like a lot, it goes a long way in India. Ambika’s life is changed forever.
  1. The ex-Devadasis who are featured in this year’s flagship campaign, the Hope Project, are getting a second chance at life through our online support system. Since our inception in 2010, we’ve facilitated over 8,700 loans, all from the power of community, with not a single default… and we’re just getting started.

This Mother’s Day, why not join our community and give the gift of empowerment to a mom working hard to make a better life for her and her children? Every time you make a good wish for any of the mompreneurs featured on Milaap, we’ll pass a $25 loan on to them in your honor. They’ll be one step closer to realizing their dream, and you’ll have taken one more step to make the world a better place.

Will you join us?

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Sourabh Sharma is the Co-founder & CEO of Milaap Social Ventures. You can find out how to lend a little and change a lot by visiting http://milaap.org/blog/champions-of-hope/ and learn more about Milaap at http://milaap.org/.

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