Athens senior pays it forward

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 18, 2012


The Athens High School Kiva Club, under the direction of senior Vutukuru Vutukuru, has helped a woman in the Philippines with a fish selling business, a woman in Mongolia with a bakery and a man in Jordan with a grocery store.


Vutukuru and a friend started the Athens Kiva Club in 2010 and raised funds through can drives, donations and bake sales. Vutukuru’s father, Ram, introduced him to Kiva a few years ago and encouraged him to donate a part of his allowance to fund micro loans.

Kiva is a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 that facilitates microloans by linking lenders and borrowers online. The group has arranged $271 million in loans to 664,000 people and small businesses. Loans average about $380 and may be as small as $25. Once the business starts up and makes a profit, the entrepreneur repays the loan to Kiva. “We base it on who needs the money the most,” Vutukuru said.

Locally, Michigan Corps, Accion USA and the Knight Foundation launched Kiva Detroit last summer with the aim to rebuild the Detroit economy and champion small businesses. The Knight Foundation matches up to $250,000 in donations, and Accion administers the loans. Metro Detroiters have secured Kiva loans to launch a printing business, a café, a community newspaper, a bike shop and a fashion label.

Paul Quintero, CEO of Accion, said local outreach and institutional partnerships were the twin pillars of the Kiva program in Detroit.

“Thanks to the grass-roots outreach of Michigan Corps and the committed loan funds provided by Kiva, we are helping finance the dreams of many Detroit entrepreneurs today and looking to replicate this outreach and partnership model across America,” he said in a prepared statement.

“You hear back from entrepreneurs how the loans changed their lives,” Vutukuru said.

He was surprised to learn that there were not many schools in metro Detroit involved in the Kiva program, and he will spread the word about Kiva in hopes of inspiring other school groups to get involved at the Student Connection in Birmingham from 1-2 p.m. Jan. 22.

Vutukuru said he hopes to show people what Kiva is all about and go over what students need to know to get their own club started as soon as possible. After he graduates, Vutukuru plans to attend Michigan State University and pursue a career as a physician or a researcher.

Vutukuru said that once the clubs are started, students will be amazed how quickly they can be of help.

The Student Connection is located at 770 Forest Ave. in Birmingham, south of Maple, west of Adams. For information about the Athens Kiva Club, email For information on Kiva Detroit, visit