Talking to Andrea Branson

Talking to Andrea Branson


Talking to Andrea Branson

Today we’re meeting up with Andrea Branson!

  1. Please tell us a little bit more about yourself, where you come from & where you live now. There is no word limit. As short or as long as you want!

My name is Andrea Branson, I am 51 years old and I live in the North West of England with my husband of 3 years.  My son is at University studying a Master’s degree and my teenage step-daughter lives part-time with us at the weekend.   As far as town’s go, mine is considered the entertainment capital of the UK, with millions flocking to enjoy its seaside and leisure facilities during the summer months. It is heavily dependent upon tourism and this masks a hidden decay of poverty, anti-social behavior, high levels of crime, and low levels of housing standards and life expectancy and poor educational achievement. In fact 8 of the town’s neighborhoods take up ten of the slots given to the most deprived areas in Great Britain.  I was raised in this environment and I’ve fought against the tide of despair that overshadows this Victorian Town.  I was expected to leave school and move into low paid, catering and hospitality and even began training in this area.  Thankfully, I diversified into office work and then into Project Management and I later gained employment in one the biggest companies in the region. I now enjoy a level of financial stability far beyond many of my neighbors and I steward my money well to enable me to share the overflow of this.  I live modestly but I feel blessed beyond measure. It has been a huge struggle as I was a single parent for 16 years and I never had any financial support from family members or other individuals.  Even now I am married; I am still the financial provider for the household.

  1. What do you do? [your job, hobbies, etc. if you’re retired, what did you use to do and what do you do now]

I am a Risk Manager and I support Project Managers to identify things which could go wrong with their scope of work and help them to identify plans to prevent these or recover from it, if these risks occur.

When I’m not working, I undertake various roles in my local Church; I am a Trustee for two Christian Charities, one of which is an internet based radio station, which my husband founded 3 years ago, the other is an International charity,  dedicated to Church Mission, humanitarian projects and delivering bible based training in Asia and the UK.  I am also an ambassador for an International toilet and sanitation charity, committed to raising funds by “Twinning Toilets” and raising the profile of 2.4 billion people living without toilets and good sanitation.

  1. When & How did you first hear about Kiva?

I was given a $25 voucher as a thank you gift from a lady I had transported and shared time with during a conference about 5 years ago.  I had never heard of Kiva before then and I had no idea who to lend the money to at first.  There were so many needs.  I remember reading some of them and thinking, “There, but for the grace of God go I”.  A common saying, many have heard I’m sure.  But it really bought home to me, how fortunate my life was and even those of my neighbors, compared to those before me. I could have been born into that life, in desperate need for grain, a pig, a toilet and a desire to live outside the lot that had been handed to me at birth. I so admired their grit and determination to find prosperity or change their circumstances and have a better future for their family, much like I had done in my environment.  This spurred me to search for the name Andrea, my name.  In fact I am called Andrea Marie, and it shocked me that up popped a single mother from Ecuador, called Andrea Marie looking to start a catering business – a woman just like me, a woman I could have been

  1. Do you favor any particular lending theme? i.e. agriculture, retail, a particular country or groups of women?

I have made 50 loans to date to this account and I always loan to people called Andrea.  Fortunately, in some regions of the world this is a male name so I’m not exclusively lending to women – its 86% women and 14% men across 12 countries.  Lending to my namesake, keeps me humble and I pray for them as I lend to them.

  1. How do you decide who to make a loan to? [Do you research in detail or just pick the first four or five in the list?]

As stated above I always lend to those with my name. I often find 3 or 4 at a time to choose from.  However, last year after my 50th birthday, I started a separate account which I set up with all my birthday money. Due to my other charity work, my heart is directed to sanitation, nourishment, education and community.  These are four areas that God specifically spoke to me about where he wants me to focus my energy. I support those without toilets or in need of water purification, agriculture/farming needs, schooling/education needs and groups/consortiums driven by cooperative initiatives.  Within a year, I have made 24 loans across 13 countries.  I either check out the useful stats or direct my giving to those whose loans are due to expire or nearing completion.

  1. Have you been associating your loans with a particular team? [Kiva has thousands of teams]

Not really, although I joined a Christian group when I first got involved. When I set up my 2nd account I created my own, Cornerstone Christian Giving, which is tied to our Radio Ministry but I don’t really know how to coordinate it and get others involved. Rightly or wrongly, I’m just doing my own thing really until led or inspired otherwise.

  1. How soon after your loans have been repaid do you lend the money out again?

Very quickly.   The bible says that to be a good steward of what God has provided, we should make money work for the Kingdom.  This is why I love Kiva so much.  The same monetary value can work and work and work, over and over again and bless so many people.  I know that I have lent out 6 times what I have invested and if I leave it with Kiva as it is returned I can relend it again.

  1. Do you regularly add to your Kiva balance or do you just work with what is already in the account?

I add funds sporadically when I feel called to.  Sometimes when relending to one person, I see another I wish to help so I add more to my account.  I have been considering recently setting up a regular direct debit and growing my funds further that way or making a donation annually, say around my birthday.

  1. Have you had many defaults [loans not fully repaid] and, if so, does it concern you?

Hardly any.  The last time I checked it was about $30.  This is less than $0.50 across each loan.  I would lose more in direct charitable giving when it’s swallowed up by admin costs and you don’t know where it is going and what it will be used for.  Some of the loss has been down to currency exchange and some of course will be down to unforeseen circumstance.   Any loss of course is shared across all the supporters for the loan so the impact is minimized.

  1. Why would you recommend Kiva to others?

Absolutely I would.  Some people have a bad attitude to charitable giving and believe it begins at home. I think Kiva allows people to move beyond that mindset.  It’s not an act of one person giving and another taking.  It is relational. It’s a partnership.  It’s about working in union, with other lenders for a specific and explicit need.  You have the endorsement of Kiva, the support of field partner charities who administer the loans and access to financial and business data, to inform your choices.  The individuals you help don’t want handouts, they want a hand up.  It’s easy to look down on those with lack and think you don’t need to share their burden, but we are called man-kind for a reason. We are called to be kind men (and women)!  It doesn’t take much to get started.  Being a great Kiva supporter is not about having a lot of money; it’s about having a lot of compassion.  This is the key that unlocks money many have stashed away, for a rainy day they will never experience.

As a Risk Manager, I’m well aware of things going wrong and people being unprepared for that.  In my own life I’m actually very risk averse.  With Kiva, I have the confidence that I can withdraw my credit at any time although I don’t add what I am not prepared to lose. I always make a point of sharing the profiles of those I’m helping on Social Media to raise the profile that Giving is necessary.

  1. How many of your friends have you convinced to be a part of Kiva?

Hmmm ….This is hard to gauge.

How many seeds have I planted? Many! Every time I’ve bought a gift voucher or shared loan details on Social Media.

How many have said “Wow that’s a great idea, I’ll take a look at that”?  Many! But how many did? I don’t know!

I just know that I will keep sowing into Kiva, planting seeds outside of Kiva and as for the fruit of the crop…. That’s in God’s hands.

  1. Do you think the Bring Hope to the World Kiva team can reach $100M USD in loans by 2025? (this is our ambitious target!!!)

I believe anything is possible and there is no limit as to what can be achieved by people working in the same direction.  For me it’s not so much about one team achieving more, it’s about the human kind, having compassion for one another and realizing that everything they have is a gift, Some have more gifts than others and need to let go of some.

  1. Anything else you would like to share with us? [Please add it below]

The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea.  Acts 11:29

Thanks so much Andrea for sharing your time with us!

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