Through Sickness and In Health

15 June 2009 at 03:51 12 comments

My First Center Meeting with Antique Southwest Group

My First Center Meeting with Antique Southwest Group

By Sloane Berrent, KF8, Philippines

Just five days into my Kiva Fellowship, one thing I already know, this is truly an amazing experience, no two ways about it. I am learning things, going places, meeting people that never in a million years would a normal traveler experience.

It’s also quite frankly, hard. This isn’t like jaunting in my solo travels around the world, being carefree and on my own schedule, meeting fellow travelers on the road and taking my own adventures at every turn. It’s a hard mattress on the floor, a cold shower that consists of filling a bucket with water and throwing cups of it over my shoulder and in my hair, it’s no air-conditioning and tossing and turning at night in my sleep waking up sweating. It’s spraying copious amounts of bug spray and those suckers still getting my ankles, my knees, the back of my neck. It’s taking multiple forms of transportation every day, on this motorbike, off that jeepney, into another taxi. It’s SLOW and unreliable Internet when all I want to do is post a blog post like THIS and respond to the most urgent emails and be done with the computer again for the day. But fighting for each page load. It’s meeting new people every day and they are so excited to meet me and I have to fight through the heat and exhaustion of all of the above and show the same enthusiasm back.

It’s hard. It’s also, in just under a week so deeply gratifying in the most pure and honest way I could ever describe.

It’s tears brimming in my eyes multiple times a day getting out in the field and meeting woman after woman who has benefited from my field partner, ASHI. It’s learning about microfinance in this region and meeting some of the most committed and passionate people I’ve ever had the privilege to come in contact with who chose to work at an NGO despite the long hours and lack of pay because they believe in the power of microfinance. It’s walking through villages, up hills and through fields to meet borrowers in their homes who always accept us with open arms and enthusiasm. It is these women who tell me how they’ve been able through one loan after another to slowly be able to send their children to better schools and afford college. It’s seeing the camaraderie in women who tell me that before ASHI (and in turn Kiva) they were shy and didn’t know their neighbors.  It is these women who tell me that being part of a group of borrowers they are now like sisters and they are accountable to each other through sickness and health. It’s hearing about how they have a positive view of the future for their children. They tell me this all the while talking and laughing louder than the woman sitting next to them. These women shy? I truly can’t believe it.

It’s hard. It’s gratifying. It’s also beyond educational as I find myself daily in intense conversations about microfinance, sustainability and the future of the fight to eradicate poverty.

Yes there is a lot of hard work ahead, many more women to meet, and many more stories to hear, verify and retell to you. There are battles with internet connections as I try to report back to Kiva my findings. There is brewing an internal struggle coming to grip with a newfound respect for the word “patience” as I hurry up to make it places on-time only to wait in the maze of the Filipino word for anywhere between 5 minutes from now and 3 hours called simply “later.”

In the words of Helen Keller, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing,” As adventures go; this one has already paid for itself ten times over. Thank you for joining me on this journey, I’m excited to share much more of it with you.

Sloane Berrent, KF8, is currently serving her placement with Ahon sa Hirap (ASHI) in the Philippines. She is learning to love, or at least not visible cringe from, love ballads from the ‘90s, the de rigeur music choice in every taxi, tricycle, jeepney, café and restaurant experienced thus far. When better “connected” you can find her promoting Kiva on Twitter and writing about social action campaigns on her blog, The Causemopolitan.

Entry filed under: Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI), KF8 (Kiva Fellows 8th Class), Philippines. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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12 Comments

  • 1. Christopher J. Dennis  |  30 July 2009 at 08:20

    Ok, in typical fashion I’m about 6 weeks late in replying. This was your first Fellows blog post, correct? You’ve come a looooooooong way now, eh? ;) So far ’tis been a truly fascinating and inspiring journey for we gentle readers of your updates here on Kiva and Causemo.

    I completely agree with *every single comment* posted, esp. TannersDad, quote, “You make the world so alive. You make us feel, see, smell hear and touch our world. I am thankful everyday that passionate people like you are out there changing the world.”

    Now get out there and go get ‘em, SuperKivaGirl!!

  • 2. Steven L. Denlinger  |  21 June 2009 at 11:12

    So happy that you’re making the most of your journey with Kiva, my friend. I’m proud of you.

  • 3. TannersDad  |  16 June 2009 at 16:25

    You make the world so alive. You make us feel, see, smell hear and touch our world. I am thankful everyday that passionate people like you are out there changing the world. I personally wish you were still at Causecast and helping bring an end to the Autism epidemic. I am greedy and selfish. Tanner & I still owe you a cup of coffee if your travels every bring you back through Illinois

  • 4. Unilove  |  16 June 2009 at 08:18

    Sloane!!! Yay!! If anyone can handle all that is being put in your path, you can! You have the strength, the ambition to do good, the intelligence and the compassion to do so much, and you don’t disappoint. Stay strong!

    Unilove aka Lisa
    one of your 124 sponsors :)

  • 5. ravi & Shree  |  16 June 2009 at 04:06

    Hi Sloane,
    Great to hear from you. You and every other Kiva Fellow are going thru hardships to enhance the trust of lenders in the micro-lending world of Kiva.org. It’s AWESOME what you are doing and experiencing out there. Keep up the good work. We’ll be riveted to your blogs.
    — ravi & Shree

  • 6. Sangeeta Seal  |  16 June 2009 at 01:51

    Dear Sloane,
    Its really gr8 dat u r concerned 4m nw on.# cheers to ur effort.Sloane I am from India and it really pains sometimes to see the condition in some places out here.I am a management grad doing a project on microfinance and its lik an eyeopener to me.I will till my last breath try to do something for this cause and for nw people lik me U GUYS ARE LIKE ROLEMODELS.keep it up.I wil definitely follow thos line.all d bst………
    faithfully sangeeta seal

  • 7. Sloane Berrent  |  16 June 2009 at 01:42

    Gruen, Cissy and JD – Thanks for your comments. Every day is a book unto itself – I’m excited to have this blog (and my own) to articulate the day-to-day with everyone so that many many people can share this experience with me.

    Jimmy – 50 loans is incredible. I’m impressed by you too. Keep it up and stay in touch!

  • 8. Nancy Tuller  |  16 June 2009 at 01:21

    I loved reading your post, Sloane! You have a beautiful way of describing the ups and downs, but most of all, the magic of our experiences as fellows, whether it be in one context or another. Keep it up!
    Nancy, KF8

  • 9. jumpinjimmyjava  |  15 June 2009 at 14:51

    Wow Sloane,so glad there are great people like you helping others in need. If I were outgoing I would be out there too. I am trying to do my part though. I will reach my first goal of 50 Kiva loans some time this week and my new goal will be to reach 500. Take care and best wishes – jimmy

  • 10. jdatkiva  |  15 June 2009 at 10:47

    Well done, Sloane. I love the tone of this posting. Keep up the great work!

  • 11. cissydeluca  |  15 June 2009 at 09:41

    Sloane,

    Great blog post! Way to tell it like it is… the good and the bad. Keep up the good work!

    Cissy

  • 12. Michael E. Gruen  |  15 June 2009 at 05:56

    Sloan–

    I’m glad you’re out there improving access to people who need access. Maybe next time, I’ll join you. Always wanted to take a cold bucket shower :)


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