Posts filed under ‘KF16 (Kiva Fellows 16th Class)’

Update from the Field: Life as a Fellow in San Francisco, a walk through an art fair + becoming part of a winning soccer team

Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 + KF18 | Bolivia

On this week’s update we have a great collection of posts describing some of our Kiva Fellows’ Class 18 arrival to their new and exciting field assignments. But first, we are treated to an article from an out-going fellow who takes us on a visually-pleasing journey through Mexico’s largest artisan fair. This week’s journey also takes us to Kosovo and to its capital Pristina, where we will learn more about this small new state in the Balkans. Then its off to Peru, where we are given the opportunity to learn more about Kiva’s goal of creating a global link between lenders and borrowers by examining one example: promoting community development through team sports. Yey for soccer! Finally, the narrative wouldn’t be complete without a Kiva’d up take on The Real World which you should read if you have always wondered what the famed week of fellows’ training in Kiva Headquarters, San Francisco is like. Enjoy!

Continue Reading 25 June 2012 at 09:00 6 comments

Who Are Some of Maya’s Volunteers + What Do They Do?

By Kimberly Strathearn, KF 16/17, Turkey

Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” Anonymous

National Volunteer Week 2012 (April 15-21) has come and gone and despite my best intentions to post this blog during that week–it didn’t happen. But that does not mean I appreciate our SUPER Maya volunteers any less, in fact, I am going to use this blog as the perfect chance to brag about some of the individuals and schools that volunteer for Maya.  Some translate Maya Entrepreneur Profiles and Journal Updates from Turkish to English while others help out with more technical translations or other projects.

When I first started my Fellowship back in September 2011 with KF 16, I immediately recognized that since Maya is such a small program, the Kiva Coordinator is out in the field 3-4 days a week, and none of the loan officers speak English, we were going to need some help getting the profiles and journal updates translated.

Through some groups I belong to here in Istanbul, I sent out some notices seeking volunteers.  I was blown away by the response but shouldn’t have been because I know that volunteer opportunities can be hard to find and a logistical nightmare (traffic and Istanbul is a large city).

So without further delay, let’s see who are some of the volunteers that are vital to helping Maya and what they do:

Suzanne, profile translator

Suzanne, profile translator and coordinator


15 June 2012 at 08:00 3 comments

Update from the Field: Introducing, a new platform designed to empower women in entrepreneurship

Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 | Ecuador

Welcome to this week’s brief update from the field. As this class of fellows’ time in the field wraps up we have a post by Kimberly Strathearn (KF 16/17, Turkey) who tells us about FITE, a new website powered by Kiva and supported by the leading skin care brand Dermatologica. Read Kimberly’s article Retail Consumers as Micro Lenders + What is FITE? + Maya Entrepreneurs Supported by FITE on to learn about this exciting new lending platform that focuses exclusively on female entrepreneurship. Don’t forget to also check out last week’s Update From the Field in order to catch up on some more of KF-17’s last minute adventures, retrospectives, and lessons learned.

Continue Reading 11 June 2012 at 09:00 5 comments

Retail Consumers as Micro Lenders + What is FITE? + Maya Entrepreneurs Supported by FITE

By Kimberly Strathearn, KF 16/17, Turkey

Dermalogica Lending team logo

joinFITE logo

joinFITE logo

joinFITE lending team logo

On January, 2011, announced its partnership with Dermalogica (a leading international skin care brand) and other partners to launch in order to provide micro loans to women entrepreneurs in low-income regions of the United States and 56 other countries.

FITE is a global empowerment platform that is designed to cultivate Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship (FITE) by providing women entrepreneurs access to small loans that will help them start or grow a business thereby bettering themselves, their families and their communities; and to help educate the public at large about the benefits of empowering women entrepreneurs.


8 June 2012 at 08:00 2 comments

The Heart of Kiva – A Guest Blog from Mexico

Emmanuel M. von Arx | KF 16+17 | Mexico

Kiva is all about stories – what draws us all in and inspires us to lend are the stories of courageous micro-entrepreneurs that speak of hard-ship and success, challenges and dreams, love and dedication. But Kiva is not just about borrowers and their stories. It is also about the people behind the scene on the ground – the staff of the close to 150 field partners of Kiva – who screen loan applicants, grant, administrate, and look after Kiva loans, and make sure that Kiva borrowers are treated respectfully and fairly. Their stories are almost never told. Yet, the local staff of Kiva´s Field Partners are those people who make the magic happen – they are the ones who make Kiva possible. If Kiva Fellows are called the “eyes and ears in the field”, I propose local MFI staff be called “the brain and heart of Kiva.” MFI staff has insights on the conditions on the ground, the local mentalities, and the practical aspects of microfinance that can rival (and – I have no doubt – normally exceed) those of Kiva staff and Fellows. Yet, their perspective is seldom heard and their stories are rarely told.

Just how much local field partner staff have to tell and to share with the world I learned during the brief three week period during which I had the pleasure to be the Kiva Fellow for FRAC or Fundación Realidad (soon to be known as Vision Fund Mexico) in Mexico City. FRAC, has over 200 employees – they encompass 200 breathtaking stories and lives from all over Mexico, coming together in FRAC’s vision of wanting to provide financial and non-financial services to those families who do not have access to formal banking services in order to improve their quality of life.

During my work in FRAC’s Mexico City Headquarter, the MFI’s staff turned out to be an endless source of inspiration for me. There was not one person I talked to whose story and motives wouldn’t be worth sharing. Within a few brief hours I felt not just surrounded by close friends, but soul-mates – I discovered that everybody around me was at least as passionate and enthusiastic about FRAC’s and Kiva’s work and the impact of micro-finance as I am.

As soon as I told FRAC’s staff about the Kiva Fellows Blog, I was bombarded with requests of staff members to publish their thoughts and their experiences on it. Many have a particular pet project they feel most passionate about; others have made an experience on the job they are keen to share. Thus grew the idea of creating a little guest blog within the Kiva Fellow Blog. I offered to all staff to publish their thoughts and words on the Fellows’ blog as a way to make readers aware that Kiva doesn’t just connect lenders with borrowers, but that it connects lenders with local staff with borrowers with friends with staff with borrowers with lenders with… stop! Let’s just say: Kiva connects people through lending!

Rosa Gonzalez is the first staff member of FRAC who agreed to share her experience. She was hired by FRAC as their English-Spanish translator a few days after I joined the organization as a Kiva Fellow. Rosa translates both borrower profiles and journals for FRAC borrowers before they are being published or sent to lenders. But let me introduce Rosa in her own words – you will immediately see that they are pure poetry.

Continue Reading 24 April 2012 at 08:58 5 comments

Hello Spring: It’s Time to Celebrate

Compiled by Kiyomi Beach | KF17 | Mexico

Whether shaking off the chill of winter, welcoming the rainy season, or experiencing any other climate change, the spring can definitely be a time to celebrate. Some countries celebrate big which can mean local business owners have a surge in income from selling items related to the festivities. Sales for new clothes, fabrics for costumes, candies, and specialty foods increase, which give some Kiva borrowers an extra reason to celebrate.

While we may all be familiar with some holidays or festivals, each culture celebrates what may seam like a familiar holiday differently. Some countries have celebrations that are uniquely their own, with the common threads being are family and fun. Lets see how a few of the fellows celebrated.

Continue Reading 20 April 2012 at 09:00 4 comments

Second Chances (Part 2)

Due to the threat and risk of rejected loan applicant’s falling prey to predatory lenders, Credo is launching an innovative new program to bring Kiva Loans to these most vulnerable borrowers. With the development of Credo’s Poverty Score Card, a complex matrix of variables are measured to define an individual client. If it is determined the client’s application was recently rejected primarily due to an absence or lack of business income and their repayment capacity; they may yet qualify for a loan with Credo.

Continue Reading 9 March 2012 at 09:00 1 comment

Junk Food +1,300 Chefs + Edirne-Style Liver + Maya Food Entrepreneurs

Kimberly Strathearn KF 16 | Istanbul, Turkey

Although you will find many familiar fast food restaurants in Turkey, I have never understood why they are popular.  Turkish food is just too darn good. When I first started living in Turkey in 1998, there was very little western fast food, very little packaged junk food, and very little prepared foods (i.e. bottled sauces, frozen vegetable, mixes and other packaged foods).  I used to bring back lots of food items when I visited my family once a year.  Now I only bring back chili powder for when I occasionally make tacos (don’t have to bring tortillas back anymore, Turkey now grows avocados, and I substitute fresh yogurt for sour cream).

Gigantic Lay's billboard

Fast food glore


6 February 2012 at 05:00 8 comments

Secrets of the ELA Sisterhood (Part I)

Andrew Huelsenbeck| KF16 |  Kampala, Uganda

Life is not easy for a lot of young women in Uganda. Many girls in poorer urban areas and in rural villages are regularly confronted with sexual assault, unwanted or unintended pregnancies, HIV, and the list goes on. These girls are also commonly forced to drop out of school early because they can no longer pay fees or because they need to help support their families. With these kinds of hardships, young girls are often trapped in poverty with few, if any, opportunities to develop independence and improve their lives.

Enter BRAC. Four years ago, BRAC Uganda began to address some of these problems by implementing what they call the Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescence Program (ELA Program). The program is designed specifically “to improve the quality of the life of vulnerable adolescents by organizing them, creating spaces of their own and helping them develop a set of skills so that they can live and grow as confident, empowered and self reliant individuals contributing to change in their own families and communities.”

Because it is set up to achieve so many ambitious goals, the ELA program can seem fairly complex at first glance. In this blog post, I want to outline how the program is organized and talk a little bit about some of the social components of the ELA clubs. And in the next blog post, I’ll talk more about the finance components of the ELA program and about the impact of the program overall.

General Organization of ELA

Meet Barbara. She works extremely hard to train ELA staff and to develop materials for the program. She has also been with the ELA program from the beginning and has an excellent grasp on how the program functions and on how far it has come. In the video below, I asked her about what she’s currently working on and about some of the major changes she has seen in the program over the years. Check it out:

As Barbara said in the video, the ELA program has expanded significantly in the past few years and as a result, has become much more decentralized. A colleague at BRAC once joked with me: “anyone who says they understand everything that’s going on with the organization is crazy.” Yet somehow, the program functions with uncanny efficiency.

ELA Management

Each ELA girl is a member of a local club, which is organized and managed by a mentor. There are currently a total 785 clubs, which are located all across Uganda. In general, clusters of about 10-15 clubs are linked to Branch Offices based on proximity. Each branch office has a Project Assistant who is responsible for supervising all of the clubs associated with the branch and for helping the clubs to strengthen their relationships with surrounding communities. The Project Assistants report directly to the Area Coordinators, who are responsible for overseeing a handful of Branch Offices in a specific district. Area Coordinators report to Regional Coordinators, who then report to the Uganda Program Manager. The program manager is responsible for overseeing all big-picture aspects of the program and is stationed mainly at the BRAC Country Office in Kampala.

Microfinance Staff

The ELA microfinance, which is recent addition to the ELA program, requires some additional staff members. At the branch level, there are Credit Officers, who are tasked with overseeing all the financial components of the program. ELA microfinance also has its own set of Area Coordinators, who are responsible for managing microfinance at multiple branches and must be present at all loan disbursements. The microfinance Area Coordinators also report to the Regional Managers and to the Program Manager. Every month, all of the Area Coordinators meet with the Program Manager at the Country Office to review the performance of their clubs and to discuss how to improve the program.

Club Houses  

The space used for the program consists mainly of extensions of community member’s houses, or of  public buildings rented by BRAC from local governments. This is the main space where club members and mentors meet six afternoons per week. The clubs also use community sports fields for certain athletic activities.

How to Join

The requirements to join a club aren’t strict at all. Any girl between 13 and 21 years old, who is a permanent citizen of Uganda and who can pay the 2,000 UGX (~$0.80) admission fee can join. All she really has to do is approach the local club’s mentor and ask.

The Social Components of ELA Clubs

Community Participation

One thing that is emphasized over and over again when discussing the ELA program with BRAC management is community involvement. From what I was able to gather, this happens in mainly two ways. The first way is called a mothers forum. Once, every two weeks or so, the Project Assistant from the branch will get together with the mothers of club members to discuss the club programs and things that the mothers can do to help empower their daughters. Another way that the community is involved with ELA clubs is through community leaders’ workshops. These are events where prominent female figures from the community visit a club to talk to the girls about sexual health, life challenges or a host of other topics.

Life Skills Based Education

The ELA program also provides girls with resources to learn more about life challenges and how to overcome them. The clubs focus on a wide range of topics including reproductive health, menstruation, familial and community responsibility, leadership, bride price, early pregnancy, STIs, family planning and rape. Mentors will normally focus on one aspect of one of these topics every day, and occasionally guest speakers will come to the clubs to give presentations to the girls. BRAC has also published books on each of these topics consisting of general advice and collections of stories from the lives of ELA girls.

Just below is a kind of introductory story from BRAC’s book on family planning. It’s called “Tough Times,” and is mainly about a young, 20-year-old woman named Stella and her struggle through her second pregnancy. It emphasizes the importance of leaving time between births.

Last year, in 2009, I got married to Mike, a bicycle cyclist.   I’m now five months pregnant. I was forced into marriage because my parents never wanted to stay with a pregnant woman. I had long stopped studying due to lack of finances at home.   

Mike stayed in a remote village. Once in a while, when a vehicle passed, every one waited in anticipation of their relative.  City people are claimed to be rich since they always carry with them so many gifts. In the village the main source of livelihood is agriculture and most of the farming done is for consumption. 

As it was my first pregnancy, I lacked knowledge on how to care for myself. Friends, however, encouraged me to visit the health centre for checkups.  

Throughout the pregnancy, I visited the health centre only once.  The long distance discouraged me form frequenting the place. I also lacked the money to receive the medical attention I needed. As a result, a traditional birth attendant helped me to give birth to my first child. She was easily available and cheap. 

Much as Mike tried so hard to meet every need of the family, the poor man failed. To make matters worse, I conceived again after ten months. This also affected our daughter so much. She was ever sick and crying. I also stopped breast feeding her since e I was down with morning sicknesses and the general discomfort that comes with pregnancy.  Eating also became a problem since we could only afford one meal a day. 

When it reached birth, Mike was able to gather some money to transport me to the health centre. I delivered with the help of the nurse, but I faced severe complications. I almost bled to death. I was weak and anemic. My baby looked so sick that I doubted his survival.  My daughter was stunted. Having two children in a couple of years was too much for me and it also strained my husband a lot.

The nurse advised me to go back for postnatal care, with my husband. She later explained that child birth was the most risky incidence and a threat to the woman’s health and that of her baby. She emphasized the need for birth spacing if we were to take good care of our children’s health and needs.

When the nurse had finished talking, it surprised me that I was so ignorant about family planning methods and birth spacing. Use of contraceptives would give me enough time to properly heal and properly take care of myself and the children before getting unexpected pregnancy. 

Since then, I have learned to use contraceptives.  I plan on waiting for my two children to properly grow before I conceive again. It is also important that I get a job so that I can supplement on Mike’s income. This will help us to properly take care of our family and keep it happy.  

Club Activities

To me, the club activities are in a big way the heart of the ELA program. They afford the ELA girls a daily opportunity to take a break from adversity, to talk about their experiences and to learn from one another.

Towards the end of my fellowship, I was lucky enough to visit the Kanyanya Club in the Zanna district in Kampala. Just before lunch one day, I hop on the back of a boda boda and speed just a few kilometers up the road to the main traffic hub in Zanna. I pick up two oily, floury pancakes called chapattis for lunch, then march off of the main road, back into the Zanna “slums” to find the Branch Office. I get a little lost on the winding backroads, but am only a few minutes late – Uganda style.

Once at the office, I am greeted warmly by the Project Assistant and an Area Manager I’ve met before. The three of us travel up about two kilometers of steep, dusty roads in the hot afternoon sun. It would have been much easier to take a boda boda, but the project assistant had recently been in an accident and really didn’t want to take any more chances. Just as I think I am running out of steam, we reach the top of a huge incline, descend down a short lane with lots of tree shade, and finally arrive at the club house.

It’s around two o’clock, and more and more girls filter in over the next hour. Many of the members aren’t around because they’ve gone to visit family in the villages for the holiday, and many of the girls that show up are also a bit drained from the intense heat of the sun. We still have a great time playing board games and dancing. Fortunately, I have my Flipcam and am able to grab some great footage of the club house and of the girls. Enjoy!

Andrew Huelsenbeck is a Kiva Fellow who worked in Kampala with BRAC Uganda. To learn more about BRAC, please visit their Kiva Partner Page. If you are interested in helping to empower one or more of BRAC’s many wonderful entrepreneurs, you can join the Friends of BRAC Uganda lending team or check out new BRAC Uganda loans on Happy lending!

4 February 2012 at 00:57 3 comments

Perks + Atatürk + My hero

By Kim Strathearn, K16, Turkey
Perks! Perks of some sort are a part of every job.  Recently one of the loan officers brought back these cookie samples from a potential client.  YUM!

Cookıe samples = Perks!

11 January 2012 at 15:03 5 comments

What’s next for KF16? (Part 2)

Compiled by Laurie Young, KF16, Indonesia

Last week you read about about what six of the fellows from KF16 were doing once their fellowships ended. Read on to see what adventures 2012 will bring to some more!

Continue Reading 8 January 2012 at 20:54 1 comment

Arrival in the Big Easy

Not every Kiva Fellow is from the United States. So there is a chance that being placed as a Kiva Fellow In New Orleans, Louisiana, USA will be an opportunity to travel to a foreign country. For me that isn’t the case, but I am relishing living here for the next three months in all of the Southern Comfort that NOLA has to offer. If you are an American, you don’t need a passport, a visa, shots, malaria meds, Medex insurance or to register with US Embassy upon your arrival. Everyone here speaks English, there’s electricity, running potable water and good Internet connectivity. The best part is they take US dollars!

All kidding aside, Kiva New Orleans is great. The “MFI” (Microfinance Institution) with which I am working is ASI Federal Credit Union and its community partner, GoodWork Network, a nonprofit microbusiness development agency that helps ASI to source microloans.

Goodwork Network assists small and start-up businesses with classes and advice helping New Orleans’ residents advance their operations to the point where, if it is determined they need a loan, they can be passed on to ASI and then to Kiva. It’s an amazing program. I have only been here a week and I have met dozens of individuals working tirelessly to make this Kiva City NOLA program work. There’s even a television ad.

From day one I fell in love with this city and its residents. I was won over immediately. Back in San Feancisco, during the Kiva Fellows Training week, the Kiva staff devoted some time to “Winning Over your MFI,” because in some placements the Kiva fellow is ignored or under appreciated. Things were easy for me in the Big Easy. Not only was I welcomed with open arms on my first day, I was given a car to use while I am here. Many apologies to my KF-16 & 17 classmates — you can think of me when you are traveling on over-crowded public buses and unpaved roads. (I feel for you — been there, done that.)

I split my time between the Goodwork Network office and ASI’s Community Center in the Bywater area of N’Awlins. There’s much work to be done as evidenced by the houses surrounding the Community Center. They still have the large X’s painted on them by the first responders after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The X’s were a code that the building was searched, who searched it, the date it was searched and whether anyone was found inside, dead or alive. It’s a bleak reminder of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, and the fact that the X’s are still visible means that we all still have a lot of work to do.  If you are an small business owner in New Orleans and are thinking about a Kiva loan got to <a href=”; target=”_blank”></a> and click on “to borrow” button.  If you want to lend, go to the same place and click on the “to lend” button.

Charlotte Makoff
Kiva Fellow | New Orleans

Charlotte is a Kiva Fellow in KF-16, the 16th Kiva Fellows Class, with ASI Federal Credit Union and is now living in New Orleans. Charlotte has lived in India, Japan, and has built houses with Habitat For Humanity in Ethiopia, Zambia and India.

For more information about Kiva,<a title=”Kiva” href=””&gt; click here</a>. To read about ASI Federal Credit Union, <a title=”ASI” href=””>click here</a>. You can also follow Kiva New Orleans on facebook, join the <a href=””>Kiva New Orleans lending team</a>.

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4 January 2012 at 15:03 1 comment

A Fellowship in Photos (Part 2)

By Kate Bennett, KF15 Ecuador / KF16 Perú

After my first placement in Ecuador, I thought I knew living and working in South America- three months in Ica, Perú proved me wrong. New (and delicious) food, a drastically different (and drier) climate, and wonderful new friends, coworkers, and chicha-vending Kiva borrowers showed me another side of South America’s many amazing countries and cultures. As I phase out of my second fellowship back into the real world, I want to share these photos, and photos from my first placement in Ecuador, with you lenders and give thanks to KFP and Perú for an amazing fellowship experience! Click the photos to see them enlarged!

Kate Bennett (KF16) is thrilled to be working in Ica, Peru with Kiva Field Partner Caja Rural Señor de Luren. For more on Kate’s experiences with Caja Rural Señor de Luren or life in Peru, follow her work here.

4 January 2012 at 04:00 1 comment

Same Continent, Different Worlds: Part 2

By Kiva Fellows in Africa, KF16
Compiled by Tejal Desai

Ow de body! Are Sierra Leone and Rwanda still danger zones? What challenges do Ugandans most commonly face? Kiva Fellows from KF16 bring you another unique perspective from the diverse and vast continent of Africa! We patched together an overview of each of our placement countries that includes: basic socioeconomic stats, common stereotypes (and to what extent they are true or false), greatest challenges, most common loan products at our respective field partners, and the borrowers’ most common use of their profits. Our part 2 series follows the Kiva Fellows through Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Uganda. We hope our summaries give you a new perspective on the continent and its distinct countries that we’ve been fortunate to explore, thanks to the Kiva fellowship!

Continue Reading 2 January 2012 at 13:00

What’s next for KF16? (Part 1)

Compiled by Laurie Young, KF16, Indonesia

I know! We can’t believe it either! Our Kiva Fellowships, as the 16th class, have come to an end. So what’s in store for us once we return to our homes? Or perhaps, stay in the field for another fellowship? Read on for the next chapter in the lives of some of the 16th Class of Kiva Fellows Alumni.

Continue Reading 2 January 2012 at 08:00 3 comments

Same Continent, Different Worlds: Part 1

By Kiva Fellows in Africa, KF16
Compiled by Tejal Desai

Where might you find muzungu hunting? Where do Kenya’s elite runners hail from? And what do most borrowers in Burkina Faso use their business profits for? Kiva Fellows from KF16 bring you a unique perspective from the diverse and vast continent of Africa! We patched together an overview of each of our placement countries that includes: basic socioeconomic stats, common stereotypes (and to what extent they are true or false), greatest challenges, most common loan products at our respective field partners, and the borrowers’ most common use of their profits. This first post of a two-part series focuses on Kenya, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso. We hope our summaries give you a new perspective on the continent and its distinct countries that we’ve been fortunate to explore during the Kiva fellowship!

Continue Reading 31 December 2011 at 13:00

60 Tips from Kiva Fellows

Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF16 Peru

The sixteenth class of Kiva Fellows has all but left the field- but we’re by no means done talking about our experiences. We’ve collectively spent 422 weeks in the field (just over 8 years!) and worked an estimated 16,650 hours at Kiva field partners around the world.  Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of opinions about how to use this time wisely.

Now, we’re no experts in living or working abroad (though we sure do like it), but we have some nuggets of wisdom to offer up for those of you transitioning into a life abroad or beginning your next Kiva Fellowship. Stick by these tips, and you can’t go wrong. (And for more hints and tips, check out 33 Tips from Kiva Fellows (written November 2009) or 45 More Tips from Kiva Fellows in South America.) Enjoy!

Continue Reading 30 December 2011 at 04:00 6 comments

Why I Volunteer Abroad (with Kiva)

By Eric Rindal – KF 16 – Bolivia

Before I volunteered as a Kiva Fellow in Sierra Leone (May of 2011) and Bolivia (September 2011), I was living in Santa Barbara, California. Imagine: Santa Barbara beaches saturated with color, mansions with the smell of jasmine twisting through the air, and a pace of life only to be set by the sun. While there, I was working for a de jure artist and took up the ranks as a de facto artist myself. Life was pretty easy, and moving to a developing country and working with microfinance seemed a million miles away. Leaving it all made me wonder why I would forfeit the comfort and normalcy of home for places where it feels like I have to relearn basic parts of life (i.e. restroom, showers, and food).

While volunteering, I was often asked , “Why would you come volunteer in my country?” Each time, I rambled about a desire to foster opportunities in the development of people around the world. But that is just it, how concise can pre-volunteers really be? (more…)

29 December 2011 at 02:00 6 comments

A Fellowship in Photos (Part 1)

My first placement in Ecuador was my first time in the country. Turns out that Ecuador is every bit as incredible as the guide books say, and more. I was continously struck by the warmth and openness of the Ecuadorian people (and their passion for politics!), the beauty of the mountains, jungle, and countryside, the richness of Ecuadorian food, the strength of the Kiva borrowers I met there, and my persisting inability to salsa as well as my coworkers. These are a few of my favorite photos of my time there. Stay tuned for my next post, of my favorite photos from my placement in Perú!

Continue Reading 28 December 2011 at 04:00 1 comment

Cooperative Karaoke; Celebrating 47 Years of Savings and Loans

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

Institutional birthdays in the US can be fairly stuffy affairs. Seating is often arranged to maximize contact with those in the institution with whom one has never spoken (perhaps for good reason, argue some guests) and they tend to be remembered more for inappropriate comments inserted into otherwise boring speeches rather than for the celebrations that they hope to be but rarely are.

Not so at the Cooperativa San Jose de Chimbo (CSJ). Instead of standing around awkwardly, everyone secretly wishing they were somewhere else, the 47th birthday of CSJ (conveniently combined with the office Xmas party) was a chaotic and energetic no-holds-barred inter-office Karaoke war. This post includes video evidence…

Continue Reading 23 December 2011 at 05:18

Mr. Cool: Layla’s Story (Video Blog)

By Laurie Young, KF16

Awhile ago I attended a Kiva loan disbursement for VisionFund Indonesia with my Kiva Coordinator, Valentine. She and I were both intrigued by a product called Mr. Cool that Layla, the leader of the group, has a business turning into ice cream pops. Often times the borrowers we met during field visits were quiet and reserved. However, Layla was extremely excited to have us in her home and show us all about her business making Mr. Cool pops. She was the most outgoing and charismatic borrower I met during my time in Jakarta and, because of this, I wanted to share our visit with you.

Continue Reading 21 December 2011 at 20:00 1 comment

Producto Creer: How for a Bank Doing the Right Thing Can Pay Off

By Emmanuel M. von Arx, KF16, Guayaquil (Ecuador)

My host and Kiva´s partner organization Banco D-MIRO provides over ten different types of microloans to borrowers in and around Guayaquil: among them loans to finance housing improvements, school expenses, medication, and loans awarded specifically to employees, young clients with a business idea but no experience, and – as Ecuador´s only microfinance institution – discount loans for HIV-positive micro-entrepreneurs. Yet, one borrower group beats all other borrowers in their dedication and commitment to paying back their loans on time: the well over 400 disabled borrowers of Banco D-MIRO, whose payment discipline has turned “their” loan – “Producto Creer” (“Product Believe”) – into the most successful and inspirational product of D-MIRO´s extensive spectrum. The delinquency rate of Producto Creer is by far lower than that of any other major micro-loan type of Banco D-MIRO, which means that borrowers of Producto Creer are better at paying back their monthly rates than any other client group! In these times of economic and social turmoil, Banco D-MIRO´s Producto Creer may be a much needed reminder that it may pay off for banks to do the morally right thing.

Continue Reading 20 December 2011 at 04:00 1 comment

Fifteen Dreams of Fifteen Kiva Borrowers

By Eric Rindal – KF16 – Bolivia

Part of my Fellowship here in Bolivia is to complete two Borrower Verifications (BVs) for two Kiva partner microfinance intuitions: Emprender and IMPRO. During the BV, I ask four questions to verify that the borrower is the real borrower, and I ask one question to understand the Kiva borrower better. This one question: What is your dream for you life or your business, is the most moving part of my Fellowship. I am so inspired by Kiva borrowers. Some of their dreams are simple, some are grand, and others take hold of my heart with profound sincerity. I would like to introduce you to my friends and their dreams.


Dreams to…Own sewing machines to make and sell clothing

Continue Reading 19 December 2011 at 02:00 2 comments

All Loans Lead to Home; When an Agricultural Loan is also a Housing (or Student) Loan

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

“We built a little house” she replied happily, when I asked how she had used the loan. I looked down at my sheet. Oops. This loan, according to its Kiva description, was for corn seeds and fertilizers.

Of course, we have no right to insist on any particular loan use. That’s not the point. But of the first three borrowers with whom I had spoken as part of Kiva’s Borrower Verification process, not a single one had used the loan for the purpose listed on Kiva. And two of three had built houses with their loans. What gives?

Continue Reading 15 December 2011 at 05:38 3 comments

And the Winner Is…………

By Jill Hall, KF16, Philippines

“And the winner is……..ppprrrrrmmmmmmm” (drum roll). Now, if you are anything like me, the image in your head is of some famous actress or actor fumbling with a large envelope, complaining about how is it hard to open. Luckily, for this post, we are going skip the envelope and talk about a winner who is a little closer to home for this Kiva Fellow. The winner I am talking about is CCT’s very own, Andresa Javines, who is Citi Bank’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” (MOTY) for Mindanao, Philippines.

Continue Reading 14 December 2011 at 07:00 3 comments

Mali in Color (Part 2): Impressions from the Road

By Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

In the first part of this blog series, I shared pictures of Malian borrowers. But even on my way to those borrowers, I was not able to put down my camera. Here are my favorite shots from the road.

Continue Reading 13 December 2011 at 02:00 1 comment

Mali in Color (Part 1): Impressions of Kiva Borrowers

By Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

When I boarded a plane to Mali last week, I was not exactly enthusiastic. One reason may have been the unpleasant 2 AM take-off from Kigali, another the recent Al-Qaida kidnappings in the North, which meant that all relevant tourist spots were off limits. And six months into my career as a Kiva fellow, a routine task such as a borrower visit was not enough to get me excited.

I was in for a surprise.

The borrowers of Kiva’s Malian field partner Soro Yiriwaso and their incredible hospitality, made my trip unforgettable. I came to check borrowers’ identities and look at loan papers. I left with a mountain of presents, a full stomach and a serious caffeine high after the countless cups of sweat tea offered to me everywhere I went.

But I was most excited about finally being in a country where people love to be photographed. Below are my favorite shots from my meetings with Malian borrowers.

Continue Reading 12 December 2011 at 03:00 6 comments

Update from the Field: Loan Officer Training, a Photographic Journey + Kiva Gift Cards

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

December has long been the month of annual awards, looking back and frantic searches for presents. The Kiva fellows blog is no exception to this rule: Share the fellows’ memories by taking a photographic journey through Sierra Leone and watching a video about a typical day of a fellow conducting loan officer trainings. Learn about some incredible women in Costa Rica, who received a Woman Entrepreneur Award from Kiva’s field partner, Fundación Mujer. And to avoid the frantic searches this year, consider surprising your loved ones with the gift that keeps on giving, the Kiva Gift Card.

Continue Reading 12 December 2011 at 02:00 1 comment

The Do-Gooder’s 2011 Guide to Responsible Giving: Kiva Cards

In the United States, it was ushered in on Friday the 25th of November in the wee hours of the morning. Here in Ica, Perú, it is manifested in the towering polyethylene Christmas tree and tinsel-adorned telephone booths in the Plaza del Sol shopping mall. Around the world, in many forms, it’s upon us: the season of giving.

And every year in the Bennett family, we duke it out to see just who can give the most responsibly: we exchange goats through Heifer International, carbon credits through Carbon Fund, and donations to NPR and Wikipedia. That is, until several years ago when we discovered the apogee of responsible giving: the Kiva Card

Continue Reading 8 December 2011 at 04:00 5 comments

Women of the Year

By Andrea Ramirez, KF16, Costa Rica.
Today I was a judge for the first time. I had the honor of being invited to represent Kiva as part of the jury for Fundación Mujer’s 8th annual Woman Entrepreneur Awards for 2011. Today was a day full of stories of strength and success, told by some of the bravest women I have ever met. I knew these women had to be pretty amazing, but my imagination wasn’t wild enough to have predicted the struggles that these women have and continue to face. If you’re looking for inspiration to start a new project, face a difficult situation, or just to get off the couch – keep reading.

Continue Reading 7 December 2011 at 17:18 1 comment

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