Community - September 8, 2010

Menlo Park teen uses 'Sweet Sixteen' birthday to raise money for microloans

by Hannah Totte

MTV's show "My Super Sweet Sixteen" broadcasts teenagers jetting to Europe to shop for their special day and unveiling new Corvettes for their birthdays. The 16th birthday has become a cultural milestone as a teen's "chance to shine" in an overpriced spotlight.

But for Keara Halderman of Menlo Park, her 16th birthday represents a chance to support her favorite cause, the Kiva Foundation, which provide microloans to help people start businesses in impoverished countries.

On Aug. 21, Keara invited friends to a party, but asked them to make donations between $5 and $20 to the Kiva club that she set up at Menlo-Atherton High School.

"I needed a way to fundraise and spread the word," says Keara. "I thought this party would be a good way to jump start the club."

Since she was 8, Keara has been setting aside portions of her allowance for Kiva, and has since funded 11 entrepreneurs in places such as Togo, Guatemala and Kenya.

The first person Keara assisted made a sugar-based drink, and has since been able to hire people. "When I saw her picture, it just spoke to me," says Keara.

At the party, Keara's friends were exposed to the benefits of helping out a stranger, and Keara enjoyed the thrill of being 16 in a less superficial light as well.

"I'm not asking for a Hummer or a Corvette," she says. "I want to do something for the community and for the world."

Go to (case sensitive) for information on the Kiva Lending Team at Menlo-Atherton High School.


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