How Sofia Vergara Has Quietly Helped Save Small Businesses Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

At the beginning of the pandemic, Sofia Vergara felt fear like everyone else — but felt a drive to help, too.

"I knew I had to do something, something that was going to make a difference, something more than a social media post," she tells PEOPLE in this week's Women Changing the World issue. Together with her manager, she came across Kiva, a California-based non-profit that gives microloans to people in underserved communities around the world.

"It felt like the perfect partnership for me to help them launch the COVID-19 Response Fund," the Modern Family actress and America's Got Talent judge, 48, says of the role she ultimately stepped into. "I knew they were going to really be able to help people."

According to Kiva's website, the service crowdfunds loans and distributes them to people who are unbanked or unable to access necessary financial services. Loans are eventually repaid, giving investors the opportunity to put their money toward other Kiva-backed causes.

"I think it's amazing what you can do with microfinancing," Vergara continues. "You're giving people the financial tools to do what they need to do."

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More than $152 million has been raised through Kiva's COVID-19 Response Fund, aiding 228,000 small business owners.

One of the stories closest to Vergara's heart is of a restaurant owner from her native Colombia, who, thanks to a crisis loan, "reinvented herself, buying groceries, cooking and delivering to everybody at home," she shares. "We started thinking it was only going to be a $50 million fund," Vergara continues. What's happened is "unbelievable, amazing," she adds. "They're really making a difference."

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