Posts filed under ‘Mexico’

Update from the Field: Client training in Mexico, saying “hello!” to Burkina Faso, + learn a little bit about Albania!

Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 + KF18 | Bolivia

The road to work

The road to fellow DIana Biggs’ job in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

This week our intrepid team of KF-18 fellows brings us an interesting mix of stories from a wide variety of countries. From taking a lesson on how to raise and care for sheep in Mexico, to learning more about little-known countries such as Burkina Faso and Albania, this week’s posts are sure to keep your interest. Read on for a fellow’s take on what it is that’s keeping Africa from achieving unity and to catch a glimpse of what a fellow’s first few days at work are like in a new and challenging environment.

Bonne Arrivée: Welcome to Ouagadougou
Diana Biggs | KF18 | Burkina Faso
Freshly arrived to our favorite city to pronounce, Diana tells us a little bit about the challenges, and the joys, of living and working in her hot and humid new environment.

A United Africa Part One: What is standing in the way?
Carissa Look | KF18 | Ghana
Here, Carissa brings us Part One of a two-part blog about the political and communication barriers that face the countries of Africa throughout their quest to become a more united continent. In this first installment Carissa explains how Africa’s sheer size is a great impediment to its countries working together.

 Mexican Tale of Women and Sheep
Emmanuel M. von Arx | KF 16+17 | Mexico
In his last post, Emmanuel covered FRAC’s involvement with “Mexico’s greatest artisan fair” and thus made us aware of some of the non-financial services that this partner MFI provides its clients. In this post, Emmanuel stays on this topic by telling us about another non-financial service provided by FRAC: Sheep-rearing courses provided by a UNAM-educated veterinarian. Read on to learn a little more about the benefits of this service, and also if you’ve always been curious as to why sheep have four stomach compartments.

A United Africa Part Two: Why is my internet so slow, why are my phone calls so expensive and what can be done about it to unite Africa, enhance Kiva, and speed development?
Carissa Look | KF18 | Ghana
After reading this first installment about some of the possible geopolitical causes for a lack of unity in the African continent, Carissa moves on to analyze the high cost of telecommunications as a culprit for some African nation’s lack of cooperation with its neighbors and the rest of the world. In this post, Carissa also explains how these challenges affect Kiva’s work in Ghana.

Spotlight on Europe’s most mysterious country
Alice Reeves | KF18 | Kosovo & Albania
As you might remember, on her last post Alice enlightened us on one of her two assigned destinations: Pristina, Kosovo. This time around we are taken on a brief historical and geographical tour of Albania, her second destination, and she also introduces us to VisionFund Albania (VFA), the partner MFI she will also be working with.

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Updates from the Past Month:

Update from the Field
Life as a Fellow in San Francisco, a walk through an art fair + becoming part of a winning soccer team
Appreciating Volunteers & Poetry from a Newly Arrived Fellow
Introducing joinFITE.org, a new platform designed to empower women in entrepreneurship

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Plus, more pictures from the past week:

Diana’s sweltering office in Ouagadougou

Diana Biggs’ adorable alarm clock

Veterinarian Linda Velázquez giving FRAC clients and fellow Emmanuel a presentation on how to properly care for sheep

9 July 2012 at 08:00 4 comments

Update from the Field: Kiva’s new coffee partner and female empowerment in the Middle East

Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 | Ecuador

Having been in the field for a little over three months now, KF-17 fellows’ posts begin taking a retrospective look at what has been accomplished over the past few months while working with their different MFIs worldwide. From having played a role in getting a new kind of Kiva partnership up and running to working with two MFIs dedicated to helping women get ahead in male dominated Palestine, it is clear that this is the time for a Kiva Fellow to reflect on his or her accomplishments, as well as those of the MFIs they have been involved with. Read this week’s posts to find out more about the exciting experiences that two of KF-17′s members have had during the lenght of their fellowship.

Continue Reading 14 May 2012 at 09:00 3 comments

Coffee Time: Welcoming La Unión Regional Huatusco to Kiva

La Unión Regional de Pequeños Productores de Café Huatusco (La Unión Regional) is Kiva’s first non-microfinance institution partner in Latin America.  It’s a member-owned coffee cooperative dedicated to helping their largely rural, low-income members bring their coffee to market at a fair price.

By partnering with organizations other than microfinance institutions, Kiva is able to provide much-needed support to individuals who would typically not have access to credit.  And, while there are other micro-lenders in the small city of Huatusco, their reach is limited, and the costs can be high for the borrowers.  La Unión Regional offers loans to provide support for their members in a way that encourages hard work and helps them achieve their goals.

Continue Reading 8 May 2012 at 09:00 1 comment

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

Getting to Know The Real Mexico

Kiyomi Beach | KF17 | Mexico

When I found out I was being placed in Mexico, I was not exactly thrilled.  I wanted to go someplace exotic, and far from home.  Living in California, I’ve had lots of exposure to Mexican culture, so I thought that I wasn’t going to feel that I really got away.

The truth is, however, that I had never been to Mexico, outside of visiting a few resorts with my family, and I (not surprisingly) discovered that the mission district in San Francisco, where I live, and beach resorts are not proper representations for the “real” Mexico.

I want to share my experience travelling around the country meeting with borrowers of Fundacion Realidad, A.C. (FRAC).

Continue Reading 6 March 2012 at 08:45 12 comments

Update from the Field: Personal Connections, Supply and Demand + A Culinary Excursion

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF15, Togo

As the 14th class passes the baton to the 15th class, the Kiva fellows are sharing their final thoughts and first impressions. Be inspired by the personal connections Kiva creates between lenders and borrowers in Nepal and Sierra Leone. Find out how a phenomenal harvest can prevent farmers in Nicaragua from repaying their loans. Discover the creative ways of assessing credit worthiness used in Uganda and around the globe. Sample local customs and cuisine, while reading about the Day of the Child in Mexico and taking a culinary excursion in Liberia. Lastly, share the experiences of Kiva fellows across three continents in Colombia, Ghana and Ukraine.

Continue Reading 23 May 2011 at 01:10 3 comments

Kids Get Their Day

By John Farmer, KF 14, Mexico

Mexico decided back in 1924 that The Day of the Child would take place in April, long before the rest of the world decided to celebrate it in November. On April 30th I was in the state of Morelos, and went out into the streets to participate in the food and fun even though I long ago ceased being a child. A couple of women saw me without much food and insisted I get more. Such is the generosity in Mexico. The kids had all they wanted and more and there was still plenty for outsiders.

Mexico is a great place to be a kid in many respects. Children are absolutely adored in this culture where family is everything. They often live at home until well past childhood.

But youth here face all sorts of problems. Health is a major concern — the childhood death rate is nearly 7 times that of Western Europe. 15% of Mexican children under age 5 are stunted by malnutrition. Food insecurity effects over 40% of the country’s population according to some sources. Environmental concerns, such as pollution and smoke inhalation from cooking stoves, are also crippling factors.

Continue Reading 4 May 2011 at 18:00 1 comment

Update from the Field: Earth Day, Celebrations + Exceeding Expectations

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky

Kiva Fellows observed Earth Day by sharing projects initiated by their partner microfinance institutions and host countries and by celebrating Kiva.org’s first batch of “Green Loans”. The upbeat mood also extended to anniversary parties at MFIs in Jordan and Armenia, enthusiastic endorsements to travel to Colombia, and reporting on a great opportunity for Kiva clients in Mongolia. Fellows also visited with borrowers in the Philippines, South Africa, and Armenia, and took us on a typical commute in Mexico City. All in all, a very busy week as members of KF14 wind down their time in the field.

Continue Reading 25 April 2011 at 02:45 4 comments

The Subway Show

So this morning I get on the northbound subway leaving Ermita, heading to Chabacano. This is the Blue Line, heading from middle-class southern part of town toward the bustling center of Mexico City. There’s one seat, but the people around it are sort of spilling into it, so I stand.

Less than a minute into my ride, it starts — the beggars and vendors. The show can be pretty entertaining. In the first act, an indigenous woman walks through the car with a bunch of little cards, each one saying something to the effect of “Please help out by giving me a few coins.” She places them in people’s laps or in the hands of those that accept. I’m about two feet taller than she is, so I look straight ahead and pretend not to see her. After they’ve had time to read and consider, a girl who looks ten but is probably sixteen collects the cards and any change that people give. Not everyone is heartless — some give.

Next I hear percussion: one-two, one-two — a blind man is shaking a bucket with a few coins and shuffling very slowly down the aisle. A few more are added to his collection, and I ponder the precision of his pace. Faster, and people wouldn’t have time to feel the need, dig into their purse or pocket, and toss the coins into his bucket.

Continue Reading 19 April 2011 at 19:00 2 comments

Update from the Field: Cute Pigs, New Toilets + Everything is Relative

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

It’s hard to believe but the current batch of Kiva Fellows has been in the field for over two months and most of us have only a few weeks left to go. We’re getting swept up in completing deliverables, making the most of our final month in country, and starting to plot our lives after Kiva. (Travel plans = fun. Applying for “real” jobs = less fun.) Fortunately, starting May 7, a brand new assortment of Fellows will be coming your way and a few KF14 veterans will be sticking around to show them the ropes. So stay tuned for more trips to the field, insights into local culture, contemplations about next steps, and stories of microfinance in action.

Continue Reading 11 April 2011 at 00:45 6 comments

The New Poor

boats

Chapultepec Park in Mexico City on a Sunday afternoon

By John Farmer, KF 14, Mexico

I recently suggested to some friends that we go for a walk in Chapultepec Park on a Sunday afternoon. They didn’t like the idea, because that’s where the poor people go on the weekends.

“The poor?” I responded. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in parts of Latin America where you can identify the poor easily. The children are malnourished and grubby and the parents have an appearance of desperation. The “poor” in Chapultepec don’t look desperate.

You can find the desperately poor in and around Mexico City, but not so much in the city’s center, which looks more like Europe than Latin America. Still, here amid the colonial buildings and modern high-rise structures, the fabric of the economy is rapidly changing. Traditionally the male head of household worked while the woman raised the children. Anymore, with falling salaries and a growing cost of living, most families find that both partners must work to make ends meet.

two churches

A new cathedral replaces an older one in Ixtapapa

The percentage of middle class families in Mexico has dropped sharply in recent years, from over 50% in 2006 to below 40% in 2008, while the number of those living below the poverty line has grown sharply. The situation of the New Poor in Mexico is a frequent topic of discussion here.

Mexico was hit hard by the recent recession, with a decline in GDP roughly equal to that in Greece. Though official statistics peg unemployment at around 5%, common knowledge is that severe underemployment is more like 25%. One nice thing about the economy here — if you lose your job, you can always hawk cheap items on the street or in the subway. You might earn one tenth of your former salary, but you won’t exactly be unemployed.

My friend Lucia says her family belongs to The New Poor. They were much better off two decades ago when she was a little girl. In the mid 1990s, the peso underwent a sharp devaluation and all of a sudden families found that their incomes didn’t go nearly as far as before. Her father has owned his own plumbing business as long as Lucia can remember, and had to economize creatively to keep the business afloat and continue to employ his most faithful workers. Her mother became much more involved in administering the business, freeing up her father to do much of the work that he formerly administered. Soon after that her grandfather died, and one family member took advantage of the situation and cheated the others out of their inheritance, leaving Lucia’s family in the financial situation of living day-to-day with no cushion.

Just about everyone I meet has stories like this, of how the combination of economic shake-ups and rip-offs have left their family in dire straights.

But their middle class habits have helped them manage: all four children attended university despite having to work, compete for scholarships and take out loans. They all have jobs, though none earn particularly well, and even the 35 year-old still lives at home. Lucia told me her story a few days before I saw her home for the first time. What I saw was not quite what I expected — her brother the veterinarian had just purchased a new 46-inch TV, they have several cars, the latest cell phones and there are four bedrooms. They work harder and worry more than before, but where are the distended bellies and looks of desperation? Poverty is relative…

John Farmer is a Kiva Fellow at CrediComún in Mexico City. He is quite poor by some standards, but still makes loans through Kiva.

5 April 2011 at 18:00 6 comments

Special Update from the Field: Beaches, Safaris + Cambodian Glamour Shots

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

Kiva Fellows are nothing if not creative. We’ve gone to elaborate lengths to convince you that it can be hard to visit borrowers and that when we’re not trekking for miles, we’re doing elaborate calculations or dealing with databases and reporting. In truth, it’s all a front for an extended holiday from our regular lives. You thought our recent Carnival coverage represented a change of pace? Think again!

Continue Reading 1 April 2011 at 00:13 7 comments

Update from the Field: Fun Facts, Field Visits + Back to Basics

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

For many Fellows, this week was about getting back to basics: the borrowers. In between fun facts about Kiva Fellowships, doing database detective work, and reflecting on the internal dynamics of Kiva’s partner microfinance institutions, Fellows found themselves in the field again and again, much to their delight and often to the delight of borrowers. From Latin America to Africa to the Caucasus to Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe, meet Kiva clients, learn about their businesses, and check out all of the great photos.

Continue Reading 21 March 2011 at 01:53 9 comments

Death By Fire

By John Farmer, KF 14, Mexico

tamaleria

Friday, near Jojutla, in the Mexican state of Morelos, I had the pleasure of visiting Doña Mari. “Buenas tardes! Adelante!” she coughed in welcome. My visit was a routine Kiva borrower visit, a chance for me to learn more about our borrowers and further their understanding of Kiva.

Her credit history started ten years ago when her son was sick. Though her town has a free clinic, only a fraction of those who seek attention are tended to, so she took her son to private doctors. The medical bills piled up, and she borrowed from private lenders (a.k.a. loansharks) to pay her debts. She and her husband did what they could to pay off what they owed, but after several years they weren’t getting their heads above water. Fortunately, four years ago, through a government poverty eradication program, she received a mill to grind corn. That would give her a better income. The downside: she had a 220-volt electric mill sitting in her yard and nowhere to hook it up. To get it set up, she needed over a hundred dollars.

Continue Reading 14 March 2011 at 18:00 3 comments

Update from the Field: Carnival, Collaboration + Cheese-Making

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

This past week was all about collaboration: Fellows coordinating across continents to profile entrepreneurs and organizations who believe International Women’s Day should be every day and community members coming together to celebrate Carnival in all of its elaborate glory. We learned about public health in Peru, making cheese and cigars in Nicaragua, the impact of climate change in Bolivia, and the challenges faced by a microcredit saleswoman in Guatemala. Life as a Kiva Fellow is busy as always!

Continue Reading 14 March 2011 at 00:45 8 comments

Update from the Field: Man’s Day, Singing Fellows + Learning How to Count

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

The Fellows will be covering International Women’s Day later this week but let’s take a moment to acknowledge its lesser-known cousin in Kyrgyzstan, “Man’s Day”. And while you’re appreciating culture and history in far-off places, take a trip to Peru and West Timor through photos, visit borrowers in Uganda and Rwanda through video, learn a little something about communicating in South Africa, and catch up on the latest from Liberia, Ghana, and Mexico (home to the “Singing Fellow”).

Continue Reading 7 March 2011 at 00:16 7 comments

The Rookie (El Novato)

The class hard at work / Todos trabajando

The Rookie

This past week I was invited to receive the same training a CrediComún loan officer receives: a 45-hour-long marathon of information, from the history of the institution to the organizational structure of the branch offices to the details of the bonuses each role is entitled to. I’m not only a rookie here at CrediComún, but I also don’t have much of a finance background, so I welcomed the opportunity.

CrediComún is a young company with 35 branch offices throughout central Mexico and over 350 employees. They primarily loan to groups of women in rural areas, but are gradually adding individual loans to their $12,000,000 portfolio. CrediComún is a dwarf compared to its main competitor Compartamos, with a portfolio in excess of half a billion dollars, and CrediComún’s employees frequently use Compartamos as a measuring stick. In 2010 CrediComún rose to the rank of 12th best MFI in Latin America according to The MIX (Microfinance Information eXchange), and their total portfolio size grew by 96% in 12 months. Compartamos dropped one slot to 9th and their portfolio grew by less than ten percent.

All new employees attend the course, though it’s designed primarily for loan officers. My class consisted of one loan officer, one branch manager, two computer programmers, the new Kiva coordinator and myself. Not only did the six of us cram information into our weary brains for daily exams, but there was also homework, we had to role-play the part of a loan officer encountering difficult clients, and write songs to promote the company.

The loan officer performs the principal tasks of the organization; everything else revolves around them. They find new clients and take care of existing ones, attend the weekly meeting of each group they manage, typically travel several hours each day, solve problems within the groups, and transmit information between the company and the borrowers. They need to be punctual, professional, have wonderful communication skills and be willing to work long hours.

Oddly, three days into the course, I had the highest score. Danny, our instructor asked if I had ever considered being a loan officer. I laughed and replied that I don’t have the right attitude — if a client couldn’t pay, I’d probably loan them my own money. And that would be tough on $500 per month, which is a loan officer’s approximate base pay.

But they also earn bonuses. If they serve more than 120 clients, they can get a monthly bonus of $40; if over 400 clients, the bonus turns into $100. That amount grows or shrinks based on several factors, such as number of new clients, years spent as a loan officer with CrediComún, and percentage of clients who have fallen behind in their payments. As our class stepped through the function to calculate that bonus, we were seeing that maybe being a loan officer is not so bad. $100 base incentive, add 20% for having been there for 2 years, add 10% for adding 20 new clients, tack on up to 0.7% of the amount collected… ka-ching! Then factor in the delinquency rate as follows:

Percentage of Delinquent Loans Adjustment to Bonus
<1% +10%
1-3% -50%
>3% -100%

Given that the average delinquency rate in the institution is in excess of 3%, calculate the bonus for the typical loan officer. Anybody? Anybody?

John and CrediComún's Kiva Coordinator with their coveted certificates / John y la Coordinadora Kiva con sus codiciados certificados

That’s right, class. No bonus at all. Ouch, right? Make sure your clients pay on time!

Toward the end of the week, I dropped out of first place into the middle of the pack, but graduated. The big honor: I’m the first non-employee to receive the coveted training certificate. Thanks CrediComún!

John Farmer is a Kiva Fellow working in Mexico City. He is gradually recovering from the training.


El Novato

La semana pasada me invitaron a recibir la capacitacion de coordinadores de CrediComún. Es un maratón de 45 horas, que incluye la historia de la institucion, la estrutura de las sucursales y los detalles de los bonos que reciben los coordinadores. No solo soy novato aqui con CrediComún, pero también me falta experiencia en finanzas, por eso acepté con mucho gusto.

CrediComún es una compañía joven con 35 sucursales en la central de México, con más de 350 empleados. Ortogan préstamos principlamente a grupos de mujeres en áreas rurales, pero poco a poco van agregando préstamos individuales a su cartera de $12,000,000. CrediComún es pequeño al lado de su competidor principal, Compartamos, con una cartera en exceso de 500 millones de dólares. CrediComún suele competir al lado de Compartamos. En 2010, CrediComún alzó al lugar número 12 entre las mejores microfinancieras en América Latina según el Mix Market, y el tamaño de la cartera creció 96% en 12 meses. Compartamos bajó un peldaño a lugar número 9 y su cartera creció menos de 10%.

Todos los nuevos empleados asisten al curso, aunque la función principal es capacitar a los coordinadores. Entre los integrantes de mi clase estuvieron: una coordinadora de crédito, un gerente de sucursal, dos programadores, la Coordinadora de Kiva y un Kiva Fellow. No sólo nos metimos un montón de información en la cabeza para tener éxito en los exámenes, sino también hubo tarea para las noches, teníamos que jugar el papel del coordinador frente a clientes complicados y componer canciones para promover la compañía.

El coordinador de crédito hace los trabajos más fundamentales de la organización; todo depende de él. Ellos buscan los nuevos clientes y atienden a los actuales, asisten las reuniones semanales de cada grupo que les pertenece, viajan horas cada dia, solucionan problemas de los grupos, y transmiten información entre la compañía y los grupos. Necesitan ser puntuales, profesionales, poseer excelente técnicas de comunicación y estar dispuestos a trabajar muchas horas.

Curiosamente, en el tercer día fuí yo quien tenía la nota mas alta de la clase. Danny, el instructor, me preguntó si me interesaría ser coordinador. Me reí y dije que no tengo la actitud de coordinador – si no podría pagar el cliente le daría de mi propio dinero. Sería difícil con el sueldo que ganan, unos $500 por mes.

También ganan incentivos. Si tienen más de 120 clientes, reciben un bono mensual de $40; si más de 400 clientes, ese bono es de $100. El bono crece o disminuye basado en varios factores, por ejemplo: el número de clientes nuevos, años con la compañía, y porcentaje de clientes en mora. Cuando vimos la fórmula para calcular el incentivo, pensabamos que tal vez no sería tan horrible ser coordinador. $100 de incentivo base, otro 20% por haber trabajado 2 años con CrediComún, otro 10% por agregar 20 clientes nuevos, en adición 0.7% del monto colocado… ka-ching! Luego calcula, por favor, el efecto del porcentaje en mora:

Porcentaje en Mora Incremento al Bono
<1% +10%
1-3% -50%
>3% -100%

Dado que la morosidad institucional excede los 3%, calcula el bono para el coordinador. ¿Alguien sabe? ¿Alguien?

Sí, exactamente. No habría nada de bono.

No mantuve el sitio de primer lugar en la clase pero a lo menos me gradué. El gran honor es que soy el primero en recibir el codiciado certificado sin ser empleado de CrediComún. ¡Gracias CrediComún!

John Farmer es un Kiva Fellow ubicado en la Ciudad de México. Poco a poco anda recuperandose de la capacitación.

1 March 2011 at 17:00 5 comments

Last Week in the Field: “Christmas”, Trekking, Adversity + Good Company

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

Members of the 14th class of Kiva Fellows have officially hit their stride. While we never know where the next dispatch will come from or what interesting topics the Fellows will cover next, we always know we’ll be transported, entertained, and edified. This past week, topics included “Christmas”, trekking to a remote village (with video!), handling adversity (including a serious car accident and stolen electronics), and enjoying the company of loan officers, borrowers, and community members. Enjoy!

Continue Reading 21 February 2011 at 02:17 12 comments

Lessons from my own Country – Lecciones de mi Tierra

By Lourdes Toussaint, KF13, Mexico

As my time as a Kiva Fellow comes to an end, I would like to sum up my experiences in Monterrey, a new city for me in my native country of Mexico. Initially, I was hesitant and scared of going to Northern Mexico given the safety issues that have been felt for the last few years. Shootings, kidnappings, and other forms of violence have become an everyday concern. Still, I decided to give it a try, at the end it is my country, and I really wanted to learn all about microcredit and its impact on people and poverty.

Al acercarse el término de mi tiempo como Kiva Fellow, me gustaría concluir esta entrada con mis experiencias vividas durante este tiempo en Monterrey, una ciudad nueva para mí aquí en mi propio país. Al principio, cuando me enteré que iría al norte de México estaba dudosa y con algo de miedo debido a la situación de inseguridad que desde hace ya tiempo se vive en esta zona. Las balaceras, la violencia, las muertes, y los narcobloqueos son cosa de todos los días. Sin embargo, decidí intentarlo, finalmente, es mi país y tenía muchas ganas de aprender todo acerca de los microcréditos y su impacto en la reducción de la pobreza.

Continue Reading 18 February 2011 at 10:00 12 comments

A Post about Nothing

What’s up with blog posts? Why do they always have to be about something?  A post should be just like life. You know, nothing happens — you get up, you eat, you go shopping.

I asked myself, “John, what did you do today in Mexico City?”

My reply: “I got up and went to work.”

There’s a post!

You’re still with me? Impressive! Then on to the details, or rather, the non-details, of a day in the life of a regular everyday normal Kiva Fellow.

One thing I really like about Mexico is the food. Grasshoppers go very well with mescal!

I met up with CrediComún’s Kiva Coordinator (my KC) at the Observatorio metro station and we hopped the bus to Toluca. This smog-capped industrial city of about a million people is historically famous for producing chorizo, or Mexican sausage. It’s also surrounded by mountains — it’s beautifugly! The bus was plodding along a crowded frontage road next to a busy highway. We got off, walked under a bridge, passed a few rows of shops and found our CrediComún subsidiary.

After chatting for an hour, four of us (including two branch office managers) got into a car and drove off to visit some Kiva Entrepreneurs. First, a young woman with three small children. All have striking ojos chinos, or Asian eyes, a very photogenic family. The two year-old was sitting on a bucket on a chair eating pasta soup. I started my interview with her, asking about the soup. She was incredibly bright and cute and not shy at all. We moved on to talking about shoes — hers came from the shoes her mother sells out of their home. The line of credit her mother receives (yes, I had moved on from interviewing the little girl to the mother around this point) allow her to earn a decent living while being with her children. Before, she borrowed from another microlender. For a six-month loan, she paid 100% interest. Not 100% annualized, but over the six months she pays back twice as much as she borrowed. That’s around a 300% APR! With CrediComún she pays about 15% interest on a four-month loan, or around 70% APR. We did not want her to be late for her appointment to have her children vaccinated, so we didn’t stay too long.

Next we visited a woman in her fifties who sews out of her home and her mother’s home across the alley. The cameras were obviously making her nervous as she told us about how the loans had helped her situation. Then her eyes teared up as she spoke about her daughter who had left her baby with her a few years ago. The four-year old was crawling all over his grandmother throughout the interview. The cameras went off and we prepared to leave, and she showed us the jeans and industrial towels she makes. She waxed enthusiastic as she talked about the order for 30,000 towels she received from a nearby factory, and how she contracts another woman to help out and may be hiring others soon. If only we’d filmed that part!

The final visit was to a poor-looking house on a dead-end lane with what used to be a truck sitting out front. Chickens were clucking and a hateful dog on a short tether was barking and struggling violently to get at us. A preteen girl gave him a kick as we were invited into the house.

This client sells plates and cups and so forth out of her home. She didn’t want us to videotape the interview out of fear for her children. I explained that we would not upload photos of anyone but her, and never give her full name or her location, and that there already is a photo of her on Kiva’s site and that she had agreed to have it posted. She didn’t budge, and we proceeded with the interview. Her twelve-year old daughter had just begun sixth grade. The girl talked about how she wanted to be a doctor and planned to finish high school. I let her know she’d probably have to study a bit longer than that.

The dog barked the whole time, so it was just as well we didn’t record the interview. We had two great videos already and dozens of photos.

Next the four of us went to eat pozole (a hominy-based soup, as in “No pozole for you!”) at a successful-looking restaurant. One of the branch office managers told me that the owner is another CrediComún borrower, but because she has become so successful, the amounts she can borrow are too high to qualify as a Kiva borrower. At lunch we reviewed our amazing collection of videos and photos.

My KC and I walked back to the highway, were soon on the bus and I threw my backpack in the rack above our heads. Because she’s one of those people who have a lot to say, the time went by quickly. I told her about my late night of shooting pool and drinking mescal and eating chapulines (crunchy grasshoppers served with sliced oranges).

We looked out at the beautiful mountains and pine forests, and before I knew it we were on the subway heading back to the office. I realized something was wrong with my backpack – my flipcam was not there. Nor was my camera. We returned to the bus station to see if perhaps they had fallen out, and an hour later, the infinitesimal hope I held had gone to zero. After years of never having been a victim in Latin America (true, I’ve been overcharged!), I had finally been robbed. And the worst part by far, was the loss of all that precious data.

I felt like a jerk (in fact, the jerk store called and they are not running out of me!) because of the sheer carelessness on my part. Not only were those images perfect and meant so much to me and would have made this post so much better, but could the data in the wrong hands put those families at risk? Fortunately none gave their full names or neighborhoods and we didn’t take any outdoor shots, but the truth is, yes, it could.

So there it is. There’s a post. Just a bunch of people doing their day-to-day routines.

You can help by making a loan to a CrediComún client, joining Friends of CrediComún, or spreading the word about Kiva.

John Farmer is a Kiva Fellow working in Mexico City. He has watched way too many Seinfeld reruns in the past.

15 February 2011 at 15:00 4 comments

The Two Faces of Mexican Food – Las Dos Caras de la Comida Mexicana

By Lourdes Toussaint, KF13, Mexico

How is that Mexico, a country with such a rich traditional cuisine, now considered a world heritage, is also one of the countries with more obesity among its population?

¿Cómo puede ser que México, un país que cuenta con tanta riqueza en su cocina y que además es considerada patrimonio de la humanidad es paradójicamente uno de los países con más obesidad en su población?

Continue Reading 2 February 2011 at 08:00 17 comments

Financial Education and the Mexican Dream – La Educación Financiera y el Sueño Mexicano

By Lourdes Toussaint, KF13, Mexico

In Mexico, social class is a powerful force that is present in almost every aspect of the Mexican life. Health, education, jobs, housing, financial services, and many other aspects are greatly influenced by the economic class to which one belongs. Class determines the quality and quantity of opportunities available to a person or a family. So as long as there is mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder due to personal efforts and merit, we can say that there is something close to equality of opportunity. However, in Mexico, classes have remained relatively unchanged over the years; social mobility is not happening as much as we wish it did. Escaping poverty is so difficult that the lower class is practically frozen in its place.

En México, hablar de clases sociales significa hablar de división: salud, educación, empleo, vivienda, servicios financieros y muchos otros aspectos se ven influidos por la clase social a la que se pertenece, llegando esta a convertirse en un factor determinante para definir la cantidad y calidad de oportunidades que se presentan en la vida de una persona. No podremos hablar de igualdad de oportunidades en nuestro país, sino hasta que empiece a haber movilidad, esto es, el movimiento ascendente o descendiente en los niveles socioeconómicos de las familias, fruto de su esfuerzo y mérito personal. Desafortunadamente esta movilidad no se da en México. Las clases sociales han presentado muy pocos cambios en años. Salir de la pobreza es tan difícil que las clases bajas permanecen prácticamente congeladas, sin poder escapar de su situación.

Continue Reading 19 January 2011 at 12:00 6 comments

Colorful Finances – Finanzas de Colores

By Lourdes Toussaint KF13, Mexico

The state of Chiapas, located in the southwest Mexico, is one of the most diverse regions in terms of demographics, language, food, geography and colors. Today Chiapas is the state with the largest number of microfinance institutions. Some of these institutions have developed professional methodologies and practices that have allowed them to grow steadily and achieve efficiency and financial inclusion in remote rural areas.

El estado de Chiapas, localizado en el sureste de México, es considerado como una de las regiones más diversas en términos de población, cultura, idiomas, comida, colores, flora y fauna del país. Chiapas es el estado con mayor número de instituciones microfinancieras. Algunas de estas instituciones han logrado desarrollar metodologías y prácticas de gran profesionalidad que les han permitido llevar los servicios financieros a zonas rurales remotas.

Continue Reading 27 December 2010 at 12:00 10 comments

Are Financial Services a Human Right?- ¿Son los Servicios Financieros un Derecho Universal?

By Lourdes Toussaint, KF13, Mexico

Access to credit, even on a small scale, can have a transforming effect on human lives. According to the Center of Financial Inclusion at Accion International, it is estimated that in Mexico 45% of households are completely excluded from financial services, meaning that they are not using any single formal service. Another 50% of households are using the system in a limited way with access to one or two services, and only 5% of the country reports using savings, credit and insurance.

El tener acceso a créditos, aun cuando sea a pequeña escala, tiene un efecto transformador en las vidas de las personas. El Centro de Inclusión Financiera de Accion Internacional, estima que en México el 45% de los hogares están completamente excluidos de servicios financieros, esto quiere decir, que no usan ningún servicio financiero formal. Otro 50% de los hogares usa el sistema de forma limitada, con acceso a uno o dos servicios y, únicamente el 5% del país, reporta usar los servicios de ahorro, crédito y seguros.

Continue Reading 7 December 2010 at 12:00 6 comments

The “non-cowards” of Monterrey – Los “no-cobardes” de Monterrey

By Lourdes Toussaint, KF13, Mexico

A few months back, the owner of Cemex, one of the biggest Mexican companies and one of the world’s largest cement firms, caused a stir in the country by stating in his twitter account that those who are leaving the city of Monterrey are “cowards”. Due to the violence and the war between drug cartels in the north of the country, many people are choosing to leave this city. However, there are also many “non-cowards” or even “brave” people that are choosing to stay, to defend the city where they grew up and to continue with their work and everyday life despite the dangers.

Hace algunos meses, el dueño de Cemex, una de las mas grandes compañías mexicanas y una de las mas conocidas cementeras del mundo, causó revuelo en el país al calificar de “cobardes” en twitter a los que han decidido irse de la ciudad de Monterrey. Debido a la violencia y la guerra entre narcotraficantes en el norte del país, hay muchas personas que se han ido de esta ciudad. Sin embargo, también existen muchos “no cobardes” o incluso “valientes” que han elegido quedarse a defender la ciudad donde crecieron, y a continuar con su trabajo y su vida a pesar de los peligros.

Continue Reading 23 November 2010 at 11:00 20 comments

The day after mañana

By Sally Bolton, KF11, Mexico

Mañana holds a special place in Mexican culture. The frustrations of mañana (tomorrow) when it comes to dealing with mechanics, tradespeople, the phone company or any branch of Mexican bureaucracy are well documented. When will the internet be reconnected? Mañana. When will the doors be put back on my apartment? Mañana. When will this rubbish be collected? Mañana. Just about the only time when mañana won’t cut it is when you are asked to pay a ‘fine’ to the traffic police. Your suggestion that you pay the ‘fine’ mañana at the police station will not be well received.

But instead of complaining about mañana I actually want to celebrate it. Sometimes mañana can be a great thing, particularly when it comes to microfinance.

Kiva’s field partner CrediComún seeks to distinguish itself in the crowded Mexican microfinance marketplace by offering a very fast turn-around on loan requests. The average time from receiving a loan request to disbursing the loan is two days.

Continue Reading 30 June 2010 at 06:58 1 comment

World Cup Reports from Kiva Fellows Around the World

Kiva Fellows share their World Cup experiences from Mongolia, Rwanda, Mexico, Bolivia, Togo, Sri Lanka, Chile and Kyrgyzstan

Continue Reading 29 June 2010 at 22:56 3 comments

I want your autograph… here and here, and here and here and here

By Sally Bolton, KF11, Mexico

A strange thing happens when the time comes to take a photo of a Kiva borrower or group. Women who moments before were smiling and laughing suddenly put on their solemn photo face. My colleague Marta is great at coaxing a smile from even the most serious photo subjects. “Lend me a smile, please,” she says. “I’m going to make you a star! Next stop, Hollywood!” The women break into smiles, and with a quick click of the camera she captures the moment.

The women have another thing in common with Hollywood stars, aside from having their photo taken. They have extensive experience in signing their names. Over and over and over again. Only they’re not signing autographs for their adoring fans, they’re signing all of the documents required to disburse a loan.

Continue Reading 24 June 2010 at 08:58 4 comments

A Mexican waiver

By Sally Bolton, KF11 Mexico

“I’m so happy that you can come with me to Tlalnepantla today,” said Leti, the loan officer I was working with last week. “There’s a group there who don’t want to enter into Kiva for their second loan cycle. Maybe you can convince them that they should.”

Convince them? I wasn’t sure that was my role. Leti explained that a few of the group members didn’t want to appear on the Kiva website given the drug violence and fragile security situation in Mexico. They were concerned that appearing on Kiva might put them at risk.

On one hand I was really happy to know that the group had been fully informed about what it means to receive a Kiva loan. All borrowers must sign a Kiva Client Waiver, indicating that they are aware that their photo and story will be published on the Kiva website. But a signed form doesn’t necessarily mean that the borrower fully understands how Kiva works. Most borrowers will happily sign every form that is put in front of them so they can receive their loan. They often don’t read the forms closely, or perhaps they can’t read them. So it is important that the loan officer explains to them exactly what it means to ‘enter into Kiva’.

Continue Reading 10 June 2010 at 04:16 4 comments

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