SOURCE: CHF International

December 18, 2008 08:45 ET

CHF International Announces craigslist Founder Craig Newmark Supports Microfinance in the Palestinian Territories

Newmark Plan Pushes Peace by Supporting Palestinians With Micro Loans

SILVER SPRING, MD--(Marketwire - December 18, 2008) - Internet entrepreneur Craig Newmark, founder of that classified advertising website "craigslist" where you can acquire anything from a nanny to a used guitar, has another passion, supporting peace in the Middle East by backing microfinance in the Palestinian Territories.

Newmark has teamed with two other organizations to expand a microfinance program for low-income Palestinian families. He's working with the humanitarian aid and development assistance organization CHF International and with Kiva, the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, where individuals can choose and lend to entrepreneurs in the developing world.

CHF, an expert in microfinance, has run the loan program in the Palestinian Territories since 1994. It extends small loans to families for business development and home improvement, in hopes of fostering economic stability in this politically-fragile region. Newmark saw the need to help Palestinians develop alternative sources of income when he recently gave $20,000 from his own pocket to CHF, to help that organization post its clients onto Kiva, thereby introducing them to the internet world.

"As an individual, I was encouraged to do this kind of thing by the U.S. State Department, the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli government, and I was inspired by Madeleine Albright, when she explained to me that I was doing a little public diplomacy," says Newmark, who has long sought peace in the region. "I have listened to the comments of over 650,000 Palestinians and Israelis (via the organization," he adds. "The vast majority of these folks are moderates who want to prepare for peace, which includes building a better business environment in the Palestinian Territories. Microfinance via CHF and Kiva is one way to help. I look forward to contributing towards the goal of building a foundation of peace through commerce with small business owners."

Under this tri-fold new relationship, the partners anticipate raising as much as $US one million in loan capital for CHF to assist Palestinian families and businesses. Newmark's grant is being used to train CHF staff in the Palestinian Territories to upload Kiva profiles, as well as to disperse the projected increased number of loans generated by Kiva's involvement.

On November 24, 2008, CHF posted its first two entrepreneurs on Kiva: A 26-year-old mother of four in need of $1,000 to expand her strawberry plot for greater production; and a 20-year-old Palestinian man in search of $1,200 to buy tables, chairs and cooking equipment for his cafeteria business, which he developed to support his parents and five younger brothers. Individual donors funded both clients the same day their stories were posted.

"It is such a perfect way to help out in a politically-fraught region, without actually having to take a side in the politics," says Kiva lender Sarah, from Waltham, Massachusetts. "The gentleman we lent to needs help financing his café regardless of what faction is running his country."

Says Matt Flannery, CEO and Co-founder of Kiva, "We are thrilled to be working with Craig Newmark and the microfinance experts at CHF. It wasn't easy figuring out how to work in the Palestinian Territories. It would have never happened if it wasn't for this fortuitous circumstance. Together we are funding dreams in a place where dreams have too often been overlooked."

CHF International, which operates development programs in more than 30 countries, is the largest microfinance lender in the Middle East, where its loans have a 98% repayment rate. Says Chris Sale, Vice President for Development Finance at CHF, "Our repayment rate is a testament to the desire and power of people to help themselves and our ability to aid them in that. We successfully run loan programs for entrepreneurs and individuals in some of the most challenging environments in the world -- Afghanistan, Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza, for example. Our aim is to help communities in these countries to become self-sufficient." She adds, "Partnering with likeminded, innovative organizations and people like Kiva and Craig Newmark is the surest way for us to help create economic opportunities in these areas."

Contact Information

  • Contact Information:
    For Craig Newmark, please contact:
    Doug Kohl
    Sierra Communications
    (209) 586-5887
    Email Contact

    For Kiva, please contact:
    Fiona Ramsey
    (Office) (415) 358-7515
    (Cell) (415) 378-0319
    Email Contact

    For CHF International, please contact:
    Laurel Tierney
    (cell) (202) 607-1307
    Email Contact