Man walks across country for Kiva

7/7/2010

By MONICA SPRINGER

By MONICA SPRINGER

mspringer@gctelegram.com

When Jonathon Stalls picks up his dog's leash, his dog, Kanoa, gets excited and is ready to go for a walk.

The two have been walking a lot lately. Stalls and Kanoa are walking across the country in support of a nonprofit organization called Kiva.

They started walking in Delaware in March and plan to end their walk in San Francisco in November.

Stalls learned about Kiva two years ago while taking a social entrepreneurship class at Metro State College of Denver, where he graduated in 2009.

The almost five-year-old micro-lending organization works like this: People sign up for the organization on its website, kiva.org, and donate money to people who are starting or want to expand their business.

The businesses could be in Kenya, Peru, or the Congo, along with a host of other countries.

Kiva has more than 400,000 people who have loaned more than $146 million to entrepreneurs around the world. And Stalls said that Kiva has a 98 percent repayment rate within 10 months of a loan. That means if a person loans $25 to an entrepreneur, the entrepreneur will pay them back $25 within 10 months, which allows for the person to either keep the money or make another loan.

Kiva is keeping its users updated on Stalls' progress through its blog at http://www.kiva.org/blog.

Stalls said he's enjoying walking across the country and has particularly enjoyed West Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Md., and Katy Trail in Missouri.

Stalls walks with Kanoa, a 2 1/2-year-old German Shepherd and Blue Heeler mix that he rescued from a Denver animal shelter.

Stalls said he wanted to walk across the nation with his dog for the companionship so he wouldn't have to walk alone.

Another aspect Stalls said he likes is getting to see the rural side of the country. When he started his walk in March, crops were being planted, and now in the summer he walks along fields that are being harvested.

While he's been walking for 127 days, he and Kanoa have camped in a tent for only nine of those days. Stalls said he meets people along the way that offer him a house that he and his dog can rest in.

In Garden City, he's staying with his cousin, Karen Pitner Luckett.

On his walk, Stalls has encouraged people to join Kiva, and those that have joined because of Stalls have loaned more than $186,000 to entrepreneurs.

He said the organization teaches people from different countries that they can be successful.

"It gives people a sense of pride," Stalls said. "They fight a little harder to get their kids into school and become more active in their community."

Stalls usually walks with Kanoa from 8 a.m. to about 2 p.m. and covers up to 15 miles per day. The pair try to avoid the summer heat in the afternoon, and Stalls puts dog boots on Kanoa's paws so the dog can walk on the hot asphalt or concrete roads.

Stalls also carries a backpack that weighs about 50 pounds and is full of food, water, dog food, clothes and an occasional dog bone, he said.

He spent about a year planning his walk across the nation. He said he likes traveling by himself because he doesn't have to have a definite route plan — in Colorado, for example, he isn't sure yet which way he will travel.

He has traveled through Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. He will travel through Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.

Stalls is keeping the public updated on his walk through his website, www.kivawalk.com.

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