Giving back to the source of my inspiration

So as I posted a few days ago, I sold a novella to Asimov’s. It’s called “The Weight of the Sunrise,” and it’s an alternate history in which the Inca Empire survives into the 19th century and negotiates with America for the smallpox vaccine.

I did my research, and I tried my best to get things right. But I wanted to do something to address the cultural appropriation issues involved with writing speculative fiction about the indigenous peoples of Peru.

So I decided to donate half of my payment for the story, or $500, to a non-profit organization working on issues related to my concerns. I wanted to give back to the source of my inspiration. I considered Doctors Without Borders–a group providing medical aid to people in 70 countries, which seemed appropriate for a story about smallpox in the Inca Empire. I also considered the Carl Brandon Society, which is dedicated to addressing the representation of people of color in the sf/f world. I looked at a few other ideas, like Partners in Health and Con or Bust.

These are all worthy organizations. But I’m grateful to Debbie Notkin, aka wild_irises, for suggesting the perfect place.

Kiva lets me provide microloans to help ease poverty around the world. It works like this: Individuals in need of small loans (usually under $2,000) apply with Kiva’s local partners. Often the money is for starting a new business or expanding their current one. I see their listings, and I can pledge anywhere from $25 up. When the person has enough sponsors, they get their loan. The best part? It’s a _loan_. The recipient will pay the credit back into my Kiva account over the next year or two (the loans have written terms, just like bank loans). So I can re-loan the money to someone else once it’s come back to me.

Repayment of loans is 98%, so it’s very low risk. People want to pay the money back, and they do once they’ve earned it. An amount which is relatively smallish to me can be life-altering for someone in Peru, where the average annual income is about $6,000 a year. Check Kiva’s FAQ if you’d like to learn more about how microlending works.

And it was really fun to pick which projects to help with! Here’s one, where I filled in the remaining amount needed: “A loan of $400 helped Rosa to buy groceries to stock her store, as well as cosmetics to sell and food for chickens.” And here’s another one I contributed to, which is still raising funds: “A loan of $575 helps Giancarlo to purchase tires and to provide general maintenance of his moto-taxi.”

I chose eight people in total, including a young man hoping to buy a plot of land, and a businesswoman who rents sound equipment. Over time, as the money comes back into my account, I’ll loan it out again. So the money will keep on helping people build better lives and stronger communities in Peru.

I’m glad I did this.

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