Posts filed under ‘East Asia & the Pacific (EAP)’

The Filipino Sense of Community

Keith Baillie | KF19 | Philippines

Part I: Construction of a New Community

Following the Sendong typhoon, many Cagayan de Oro residents were displaced. I visited one of the resettlement villages, Xavier Ecoville.  Flood victims are still currently living in temporary wooden accommodation built by agencies like Habitat for Humanity.

Temporary housing:
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But new permanent housing is being constructed, with the philosophy “We are not just building houses, we are building a community”.
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Permanent housing:
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Among the first facilities constructed are a church and a community hall. There are also a health and family planning center, day care and preschool facilities, and covered basketball and volleyball court. Housing is in low-rise terraces, enabling neighbors to mingle in the street.

Playground and Church:
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Children’s Study Center:
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Part II: Factors Driving Community Spirit

If I mention that I am visiting or eating somewhere, they always ask “Who’s with you, sir?” I ask myself “What are the factors that drive the strong Filipino sense of community?”  Here are some factors that occur to me:

  1. Strong family bonds. Filipinos typically have large families.  Working children are responsible for helping support parents and younger siblings (including their education). Children will frequently work abroad to accomplish this. Such family obligations imprint a model for shared responsibility in the broader community.
    Note: However, nowadays many Filipino couples separate and many children are born outside of marriage. Nevertheless, parents or grandparents always take care of the children if the mother cannot.
  2. Living accommodation. Single Filipinos typically live with their family until they marry and establish their own family home. Young Filipinos studying or working away from home typically live with colleagues in boarding houses, which provides a community atmosphere in place of the family home. Few Filipinos live completely alone, even when elderly.
  3. Shared religion.  (I have worked in Christian areas but suspect the same holds true in Muslim and indigenous areas.) Almost all Filipinos I have met have a strong, active Christian faith. Although most are Catholic, other denominations are integrated in non-sectarian events, like religious festivals/fiestas and office devotionals. One of the first questions Filipinos ask me is “What is your religion?”
  4. Avoidance of conflict. Filipinos rarely get angry or raise their voices. If I say something critical, a Filipino will ask “Are you mad at me, Sir?” leading me to soften my response. I do not see angry rows or fights even in drinking establishments. When I berated a young girl for pushing in front of me in a grocery line, she just remained silent. And when my motorcycle taxi nearly collided with a motorcyclist who had pulled in front of him, there were no expletives. They both just smiled and chuckled.
  5. Community service. I met a large group of students who were studying a college course in cleaning neighborhoods and planting mangroves. When they graduate, they will be unpaid volunteers. In the cooperatives I have visited, serving the community (especially the poor) is always stressed in the devotionals and board members provide their time for free.
  6. Performances and shows. Church, school, college and office events bring people together to practice for dance performances, beauty contests, sports contests, etc.
  7. Fiestas. Each municipality has an annual fiesta when community members who live away return home. There are family reunions, school reunions, church services, public entertainments, and the roaming meals where people visit a succession of homes to eat.
  8. Texting. Throughout the day, Filipinos text small talk like “Good morning!” and “Have you had your breakfast?” This is an extension of normal social interaction.
  9. Maintenance of local bonds while away. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) maintain social connections with others from their city or region – for example maids in Hong Kong or workers in the Middle East congregate on particular streets or intersections designated for their home location.

Whatever the reasons, there is no doubt that Filipinos have a strong sense of community – both with other Filipinos and (happily) in welcoming visitors from other cultures.

Afterthought: This may explain why Filipinos so readily ask foreigners for money. When they see financial inequality, it seems only right to share it. However, they don’t seem to resent the rich-poor divide within their own country enough to change it.

22 February 2013 at 17:38

Kiva One: Faces that Impacted the Lives of Kiva Fellows

By Kiva Fellows | KF19 | All Over the World

With January 2013 coming to an end, KF19 fellows are either continuing on with KF20 or returning home to various responsibilities and careers. Regardless of the next adventure or destination, one thing is common among all: KF19 fellows have been permanently changed by their placements.

What began as a joint blog post about any person, place, or event during the course of the fellowship that affected our lives, of itself turned into simply the one person who left the most impact. Afterall, Kiva’s mission is to alleviate poverty through connecting people. The fellows of KF19 have witnessed this connection over the course of the last three to four months, and nothing could have prepared us for meeting the people who would touch our lives in various ways.

KF19 presents to you Kiva One, a small collection of stories about human connections, hope, and inspiration.

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31 January 2013 at 08:00

Twelve Days of Christmas from Kiva Fellows

By Kiva Fellows | KF19 | All Over the World

A Happy Holidays to the Kiva family everywhere!  May your celebrations be filled with foods and flavor, smiling faces, natural beauty, light and memories… here are some gifts from around the world courtesy of the Kiva Fellows 19th class:

On the Twelve Days of Christmas my Kiva Fellow gave to me…

Day 1: A Turtle Heading Out to Sea!
Marion Walls | Tujijenge and Barefoot Power | Tanzania

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Watching Green Turtles hatch on a beach near Mafia Island in Tanzania was magical, and heartbreaking, because they looked so vulnerable. They’re tiny little things – no bigger than the palm of my hand – so the 15m of beach is an epic journey but they scramble forward determinedly despite the obstacles.  I was thrilled to see this little guy heading out into the world!

Day 2: Two Washington War Memorials
Christina Reif | Kiva Zip (Washington D.C.) | United States

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The Korean War Memorial (left): Nestled between juniper bushes which represent the rugged terrain of Korea, 7ft tall statues of soldiers – wary of a suspected ambush – give the visitor a haunting feel of the a soldier’s reality.

The Vietnam Memorial (right): As I stood taking the picture I overheard the veteran say: there were 18 of us and only 9 came back. It was said matter of factly, a story told many times before, a piece of history that never loses its emotional impact.

Day 3: Three Colorado Microbrews
Rachel Davis | Kiva Zip (Denver) | United States

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Here are three beers from three Colorado breweries, enjoy!

Day 4: Four Kuki Carolers
Eileen Flannigan | WSDS-Initiate | India

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What are these Kuki’s most excited about this holiday?  “The caroling bus!”  This tradition only happens every two years because of the cost of renting the buses, which each family in the village (200+) contributes to all year.  On Christmas Eve the buses tour all the neighboring villages as a symbol of peace, unity and good old fashion fun!  At midnight, the elders go home and the youths visit each house in the village to “offer them a song”, which include tribal songs, classic Christmas songs and even Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe”.

When I asked them what they would like to say to Kiva lenders around the world, they joyfully said they wanted to “offer a song of thanksgiving”.   Through giggles and jolly spirits, these Kiva borrowers sing “Joy to the World”, dressed in their holiday best, which is all weaved from their own hands.   They graciously wrap me in these special threads and awake my heart with the “Christmas spirit”.

Day 5: Five Gorgeous Costa Rican Birds
Jane Imai | EDESA and FUNDECOCA | Costa Rica

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What speaks of Costa Rica more than a bunch of beautiful, tropical birds? Costa Rica boasts a huge biodiversity when it comes to wildlife, including almost 900 species of birds. Here are some of ones I was able to see while I was here:

  • Blue macaw (wild, La Fortuna)
  • Scarlet macaws (wild, en route to Monteverde)
  • Violet sabrewing (wildlife refuge, La Paz Waterfall Gardens)
  • Yellow-naped parrots (free roaming pets known as Lola and Paco, San Jose)
  • Keel-billed toucan (wildlife refuge, La Paz Waterfall Gardens)

Day 6: Six Delicious Dishes from Kyrgyzstan
Abhishesh Adhikari | Bai Tushum & Partners | Kyrgyzstan

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  1. Lagman: Noodle dish with beef and pepper
  2. Mante: Dumplings filled with ground beef and onions
  3. Turkish Kebab
  4. Russian style roast duck with apples
  5. Plov: Fried rice mixed with meat and carrots
  6. Traditional Kyrgyz soup with meat and potatoes

Day 7: Seven Candles for Día de las Velitas
Rose Larsen | Fundación Mario Santo Domingo (FMSD) | Colombia

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Día de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles) is a holiday in Colombia honoring the Immaculate Conception.  Every year, on the 8th of December, at 3AM, Colombians light candles and put them in colorful lanterns outside their homes. This day is also the (unofficial) launch of the Christmas season.

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Day 8: Eight Filipino Christmas Lights and Festive Faces
Keith Baillie | Roaming Mindanao | Philippines

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Christmas preparations start early in the Philippines. Since November, carols are played on the radio and offices and homes have put up Christmas decorations. Groups of children roam around singing carols, hoping for a handout. Here are some pics of Dipolog’s tree lighting festival – with monsters for kids, sculpted and living angels, fireworks and popular bands.

Maayong Pasco! (Bisayan for Merry Christmas!)

Day 9: Nine Jordanian Herbs
Taline Khansa | Tamweelcom | Jordan

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One of the most exciting and lively areas in Jordan is the downtown Amman “Balad” region. The streets are filled with a multitude of elements that stimulate the senses from perfumeries making custom concoctions to falafel hole-in-the-wall restaurants. My favorite places are the small shops selling bulk herbs and spices (for super cheap!), some of which I recognize and others I’ve never heard of. The merchants will often allow you to smell or taste the products and may offer some advice on use and preparation techniques.

The nine bulk herbs in this picture are: Two kinds of sage, Melissa, Rosemary, Artemisia, Rose, Guava Leaves, Marjoram, and Hibiscus… Happy Holidays from the Middle East!

Day 10: Ten Bags-a-Brimming With Honduran Coffee
Wesley Schrock | Roaming Fellow | Honduras

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Kiva borrower Miguel, a coffee farmer from Trojes in Honduras, stands in front of a wet processing station.  In the lower left-hand corner note his ten bags of pulped, fermented, and dried coffee beans ready for roasting.

Day 11: Eleven Indian Ingredients and Spices
Irene Fung | People’s Forum and Mahashakti Foundation | India

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Having spent close to three months in India, I must say I have not had one bad meal.  The food is always flavorful and delicious.  While working at Mahashakti, I have been fortunate to have lunch with the staff every day, prepared by the office caretaker, Radha Kanta, or just Rahda for short.  Since many of the staff travel from branch to branch at a regular basis, they stay at the office overnight.  Radha prepares meals for the traveling staff and me.

One day I learned to make a traditional Odisha dish – Simba Rai – from the following ingredients (pictured from left to right): Garlic, Turmeric, Radha in action, Ginger, Masala paste and powder, Green Chili, Potatoes, Green beans (Simba), Chili powder, Mustard seeds, Tomatoes, Shallots, and we’re ready to eat!

Day 12: Twelve Bright African Futures
Holly Sarkissian | Alidé in Benin and WAGES in Togo

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The smiling faces of twelve bright futures for the children of Kiva borrowers in Togo and Benin!

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS

FROM THE KIVA FELLOWS!

20 December 2012 at 08:00

0% Interest student loans! YSBS – Indonesia

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Dewi, pictured here in her grandmother’s shop, is studying accounting but wants to be a novelist. I say do BOTH!

Amazing things are happening at Yayasan Sosial Bina Sejahtera (YSBS,) a very new member to the Kiva partner family. First, I’ll give you a little background on the organization.  YSBS has been around since 1976, and their main activity is assistance to educate young people at all levels and ages.  They believe that education is a major key to lifting future generations out of poverty.  Kiva is instrumental in allowing YSBS to expand their Vocational School loan program allowing students who most likely would have dropped out of school, to stay in and get better jobs after graduation.

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Arda is on the bike with me, the tall white guy, with Titiek on her own bike.

The founder of YSBS, Father Charlie, is an older, but very energetic, Irish priest who has dedicated his life to working with the people of Cilicap for almost 40 years!  Speaking with him is nothing short of inspirational, and seeing the fruits of his labour is truly humbling.

This program that YSBS wants to expand – with Kiva’s help – is Vocational School student loans.  Father Charlie has data showing that currently 30,000 students finish Junior High, but only 14,000 of those finish Senior High in the local, Cilacap area.  And sadly, it is the small fees for education that keep these 16,000 students out of a chance for a better paying job and a hand up out of poverty.

How it works is that a loan for one of these students is posted to the Kiva website and when funded the money gets sent to YSBS.  But, YSBS has designed a system that allows the student to pay 0% interest.  The full amount of 11,000,000 IDR (about $1,175 USD) goes to pay for 3 years of uniforms, tests, books and school fees in every form.  This 11,000,000 IDR pays for school fees and the interest earned (right now secured at 8%!) goes to repaying the loan back for the student.  The money is working for the student to assist them in paying back to full loan amount!

We are still ironing out all the intricacies of this system but at YSBS it is clear that the ultimate benefit to the student is paramount.  Currently there are no loans fundraising for YSBS but stay tuned for more loans from this exciting new partner!

Jon Hiebert is a 3rd term Kiva fellow who has worked with Kiva in Mongolia, Uganda and now in Indonesia.  YSBS is the current organization he is assisting, where the staff is so friendly and passionate about what they do.  When he’s not working, you may see him on his quest to find the best Gado-Gado in town! (traditional Indonesian dish of steamed veggies and white bean hashbrowns smothered in peanut sauce.) 

11 December 2012 at 08:00 1 comment

A tough day in the office? Microfinance at an inspirational organisation

Alice Reeves – Timor-Leste

East Timor, Timor-Leste, Timor-Lorosaé…

Literal meaning is important here, and names are not chosen frivolously.  Leste means ‘east’ in Portuguese.  In the local language, Tetum, Lorosaé means ‘east’ – literally ‘sunrise’.  For those of you familiar with Bahasa, the main language of Indonesia, the word Timor can be translated as, well, ‘east’.

Just keep heading towards the rising sun, one day you will eventually arrive at the shores of this rocky, dusty, mountainous island just off the northern coast of Australia, at the very tail end of the Indonesian archipelago.  It’s definitely a long way east.

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7 November 2012 at 15:00

New Frontiers of Investing

Vikram Madan | KF18 | Indonesia

It’s been three weeks since I arrived in the bustling metropolis that is Jakarta, and I was very fortunate to have a wonderful introduction to Indonesia and Southeast Asia in general. During my first week, I attended the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Jakarta. The Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania is my Alma mater, and it happened to be a very exciting coincidence that the forum overlapped with my time here. I got to learn about the dynamism of the Indonesian economy as well as the newest forms of social investment – timely as I’m currently supporting a start-up social enterprise, PT Ruma, as part of my Kiva Fellowship.

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Indonesia’s Vice President addressing the Forum

In a session titled “New Frontiers in Investing,” I heard about the newest innovations in socially-oriented investment. It was refreshing to see the fusion between profit motive and social impact, and despite the small size or early stage of these efforts, there is clearly a foundational momentum building around the double bottom line in finance. Specifically, I learned about socially-oriented private equity investors and the creation of a social investment exchange. (more…)

12 July 2012 at 17:00 1 comment

Fellows’ First Days in the Field

by Luan Nio | KF18 | Nicaragua

We think we are all well-travelled, educated and smart, with great interpersonal skills and able to handle difficult situations. But what does actually happen at a Kiva Fellow’s first day in the office?
Most of us have not worked in microfinance before, have never visited their destination country and sometimes don’t speak the local language as well as they might think.

Here are impressions from around the globe during our first day with our assigned Kiva field partner.

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30 June 2012 at 11:03 4 comments

Update from the Field: Nomadic lifestyles, road trips + cultural perspectives

Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 | Ecuador

Welcome to this week’s Update from the Field! In the past few days we’ve had blog posts come to us from all corners of the world. From hearing about the prevailing Nomadic lifestyles of the people of Mongolia, to Kenya, where we journey along on an adventure-filled trip to meet a Kiva borrower in person. After touching down on Palestine and meeting a group of women that have successfully formed a cooperative, we are whisked away to the islands of Samoa where we are treated to two excellent videos illustrating life in this mysterious-to-some archipelago. From there, we come back to the Asian continent where we find two fellows located in two very culturally dissimilar countries, Ukraine and Indonesia, comparing and contrasting their experiences with borrower privacy. Hope you enjoy this week’s trip around the globe courtesy of this ever-audacious group of Kiva Fellows!

Continue Reading 28 May 2012 at 09:00 4 comments

Different Worlds: Two Perspectives on Borrower Privacy from Indonesia and Ukraine

Heather Sullivan | KF17 | Indonesia
Chris Paci | KF16 & KF17 | Ukraine

When not sampling local delicacies or fording swollen rivers to visit borrowers, Kiva Fellows occasionally find themselves stuck in the office, chatting on Skype and sharing experiences (both raucous and ruminative) from the field.  In one recent conversation, the two of us, Heather and Chris, discovered that we were facing nearly opposite sets of problems surrounding the issue of borrower privacy. While Chris’s field partner in Ukraine was finding it hard to convince suspicious borrowers that sharing their photos and stories on Kiva would cause them no harm, Heather was struggling to convey to her Indonesian MFI’s clients that perhaps they shouldn’t be so nonchalant about how their information might be shared. What follows is a joint blog exploring some of the roots of those cultural differences—and their consequences for Kiva and its partner MFIs.

Ibu Masripah from Indonesia

Ibu Masripah, a VisionFund Indonesia client, was delighted to report on the success of her kiosk and participate in an impromptu photo shoot.

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25 May 2012 at 09:00 4 comments

A Day in the Life: Loan Officers and Chickens

Adria Orr | KF17 | Samoa

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So how much is a video worth? I’m going to assume it’s at least a thousand, squared. Since Samoa is such a mystery for most people, I decided to put together a short video about the daily routine of SPBD’s loan officers for everyone to take a peek at this remote country.

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24 May 2012 at 17:58 6 comments

Lost in Translation

Compiled by Philip Issa | KF17 | Palestine

We’ve all had these moments: Trying to impress a native speaker with our ability to speak their language, we compose an elegant sentence in our minds, open our mouths, and… proceed to swallow our feet whole. Indeed, we Kiva Fellows have had no shortage of these moments – we’ve twisted and tortured whole phrases so that they come out no better suited than to embarrass and offend.

So here are a few stories of us Fellows shattering our carefully constructed, professional identities with a spectacular “whoops!”

Continue Reading 16 May 2012 at 09:00 5 comments

Clean Water and Safe Streets: What do we take for granted?

By Adria Orr | KF17 | Samoa

Of course, home doesn’t look like this…

A huge part of choosing to move to another country, even temporarily, is leaving behind the comforts of home. There are several levels to this–the ease of familiar environs, the social security of friends and family, relatively cushy lifestyle (hot water, I’m thinking of you), and of course, sometimes, your physical security. When I think about the privilege I’ve enjoyed growing up in a developed country like the United States, the first things that come to mind are abundant food, clean water, and comfortable housing. Secondarily, I consider my political freedoms and my (relative) level of equality as a woman. Finally, although it is less overt (no one ever ran infomercials with a non-corrupt cop with big eyes and a sad face saying, ‘sponsor me!’), I encourage myself to not take for granted the basic level of security and lawfulness that I experience.

Most Kiva Fellows hail from countries where there is not much cause to worry about their safety. At least, you can have the expectation that if someone commits a crime and they are caught, they will be held accountable for it. Certainly, coming from the United States, I often watch international news and feel grateful that, though police and security forces are not perfect by any means, I do feel comfortable walking down the street knowing that I won’t get hit by an errant airstrike, almost certainly won’t get arbitrarily kidnapped and held for ransom, and can expect a general level of law enforcement in everyday life. (Although any increase in my TV consumption causes a similar increase in my conviction that I am about to be attacked in the street. Thanks, Law & Order.)  (more…)

15 May 2012 at 13:28 1 comment

Sweet Deliciousness

Compiled by Michael Slattery | KF17 | Togo

Despite the often upbeat tone of fellows’ posting on the blog, I’ll be the first to admit that the position entails some universal hardships.  There is the occasional social isolation that leaves you Saturday night at home with a book and bottle of the local plonk, despite apparently leading a life of swinging exoticism and sun-drenched adventure.  There’s is a lot of driving around, waiting, driving some more, and then getting told some tall tales by people who look at you like you’re definitely one of those foreign imbeciles that regularly swallows half-truths and thoroughly enjoys the taste.

Kiva Fellow Carrie Nguyen, Peru, delivers on delicious: ceviche made of jungle fish, marinated in lime juice and sliced onions, served with yucca and chifles (banana chips). Cost, around ten soles, or USD $3.50

I’ve also come home and spent a good hour picking black soot out of my ears and my nose, then showered and found the water around my feet an unhealthy, industrial smelling, swirl of charcoal.  (I also associate the smell of burning plastic with Africa, most often first thing in the morning, as dutiful sweepers light fire to the last day’s fallen leaves and dropped plastic bags.)

Not to be outdone, Kiva Fellow Jen Truong, Cambodia, sticks up for the homeland with some fresh crab stir-fried with Kampot peppers straight from the garden, for three happy diners (or one author). Price USD $ 7.50

Fortunately, there’s food.  Blessed food.  Balm to the solitary and bruised soul; and even if the full stomach isn’t spiritual salvation, it is a way to warm the heart, as many a romanticized grandmother may have advised uncomprehending grand-daughters.  Kiva Fellow Chris Paci has pointed out that I can eat a lot of food in a given day, which is more or less true, so I thought to spread the love and identify who among my colleagues are the true foodies.

Straight from the Bosphorous to your chest–err, hips–Kiva Fellow Kim Strathearn, Turkey, gives us Sekerpare, semolina sponge cakes soaked in syrup and hazelnut, presented with chopped pistachios and a sprig of mint. The author says, send him to Turkey, Kiva, and let him rot his teeth.

Kiva Fellow Jamie Greenthal, the Philippines, says, take that land lubbers: fresh sea scallops shucked and served raw on the half-shell, pulled from the Philippine sea, on Calituban Island. Price, free. Because Jamie is a pirate. Arrrgh! And takes what he wants! (Actually, the scallops were a welcome gift from borrowers in recognition of his arrival, but hey, who said stories had to be true? Estimated price in a restaurant, USD $5 to 7).

Kiva Fellow David Gorgani, the Dominican Republic, shows us how island living really works. Please support his application for Survivor: Paul Bocuse’s Kitchen.

End result of the Young Man and the Sea: fresh fried fish with tostones (fried plantains). Price USD $8-10 depending on the size of the fish.

Intermezzo: time for a cold one to wash down the previous delicious meals. Kiva Fellow Jen Truong, Cambodia, refreshes us with sugar cane and orange juice. Price USD $0.50.

Kiva Fellow Devon Fisher, Kenya, brings us some coastal Swahili delight from Mombasa: fresh fried fish. Say it all together: samaki hii ni utamu sana! (Kiswahili for this fish is delicious!) Price, delicious.

Kiva Fellow Micaela Browning, Mozambique, keeps the fish theme alive with xima (a paste made with casava flour) and little delicious fishes. Price, delicious. (Micaela, by the bye, pays her student fees by hand modeling).

Kiva Fellow Jen Truong, Cambodia, does the delicious hat trick and three-peat all at once: fried fish, fried chicken served in unusual but delicious fashion, and stir-fried morning glory with a side mango salad. Price, USD $10 for all three.

Kiva Fellow Adria Orr, Samoa, destroys the seafood delicious fest with the ultimate in deliciousness: the roast suckling pig…for the office lunch “feast” to welcome new loan officers into the fold. Price, pirate discount. Island love is high.

Kiva Fellow Ryan Cummings, Liberia, gets us back to rice country with his typical lunch at the office: served with a piece of chicken and eggplant. Simple yet elegant delicious. And not a roast suckling pig.

Kiva Fellow Philip Issa, Palestine, paves the way to increased rice delicious sophistication: Eggplant Msaq’a (مسقعة باذنجان), which is eggplant and beef in a tomato sauce, garnished with pine nuts. Not featured is the accompanying yogurt.

Getting in his ten cents of deliciousness, the author shows today`s lunch: a hither never seen before dry fufu desi (sauce) made of fried fish and some kind of vegetable. Price 800 FCFA or USD $1.60.  Savour the deliciousness in life.

As ever, my thanks and recognition to the other fellows.

Michael Slattery (KF17) is serving as a Kiva Fellow with WAGES in Lomé, Togo. He’s pretty sure that one day he will have a coronary bypass and a large stock holding in an antacid producer.   Find a borrower in Togo and lend today!

4 May 2012 at 12:08 2 comments

The Price of Poverty: What the Poor Sacrifice Just to Survive

Jen Truong | KF17 | Cambodia

Poverty is terrible. It is unfair and merciless—I am certain many can agree to that. Often times people are born into it, other times poverty hits them out of nowhere, but the worst is when it oh so gradually creeps up into the lives of people absolutely undeserving of such a life. As my fellow KFer, Adria, mentioned in an earlier post regarding poverty, there are “different ways to be poor,” and after living in Phnom Penh for almost three months now, I can say that I agree to that statement completely. It is so obvious here that people are not only in poverty due to lack of wealth, but literally because of the lack of opportunity, of knowledge, and of information. Since arriving in Cambodia, my heart has ached to understand more deeply some of the direct reasons why so many people fall into such ruthless cycles of poverty here.

I had initially planned to write about the catalysts of poverty in Cambodia, however in writing this post, I realized that I cannot even pretend like I understand enough about poverty to talk about its catalysts—I found that it is just too exhausting to try to analyze and interpret the information I have gathered in this young and naïve little mind of mine. But, in my quest to understand the catalysts, I can definitely say that I have gained some interesting insight on the sacrifices that people living in poverty are required to make in order to survive here in Cambodia…and that is something I would love to share with you all.

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25 April 2012 at 10:43 11 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

Hitting the Help Wanteds in Jakarta

Heather Sullivan | KF17 | Indonesia    

Weekends as a Kiva Fellow can be slow.  How slow?  So slow that after an afternoon of quality time with my Kindle, I recently found myself reading the “help wanted” section of a local newspaper. 

The listings were almost all in Bahasa, and it is safe to say that I haven’t exactly mastered the language in a period of six weeks.  Still, it was hard not to notice certain consistencies, and the few postings in English confirmed the pattern:  Indonesian firms are unapologetic in specifying the sex and maximum age of prospective hires.  Man or woman?  Maximum age?  Single or married?  I even came across one design firm that included “not colour blind” for all of its postings. (Presumably this refers to visual acuity, as opposed to the firm’s hiring practices.)

Job postings aside, the corporate culture (and sartorial habits) of modern Indonesian firms bear little resemblance to the decadent halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

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27 March 2012 at 09:00 6 comments

A Poverty of Opportunity: Different Ways to be Poor

By Adria Orr | KF17 | Samoa

Anyone coming to Samoa must have conflicting expectations in their mind–I know I did. After all, developing country or not, isn’t it a tropical island paradise? Upon receiving my placement from the Kiva Fellows program, an initial googling revealed tourism websites touting beautiful beaches, blue skies, and resorts. As I peered anxiously at the pictures, I thought to myself, “While other fellows are dodging motos in Southeast Asia or battling blackouts in Africa, I’m going to be living in…Hawaii?” I’ll admit a kernel of disappoinment–so much for my 4 months roughing it ‘in the field,’ I was going to be jet-skiing to work!

Ok, so my imagining of the commute to work wasn't SO off..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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18 March 2012 at 16:14 13 comments

Update From The Field: Inspiring Field Partners, Cultural Adjustments + Girl Scout Cookies (No Wait, That’s Not Right)

Compiled by Chris Paci, KF16 & KF17, Azerbaijan

A Béninois borrower - Allison Moomey, Benin

It’s the beginning of March, and by now, most of KF17 has been out in the field for several weeks. We’ve settled in at our field partners, gotten to know some of our new coworkers, and started to dig a little deeper into the societies of the countries we now call home. Many of us have already traveled out into the field to visit the borrowers at the heart of the Kiva model. Check out this week’s posts and join the fellows of KF17 as they discover the quirks of Samoa, reflect on Benin’s distinctive culture, and observe extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic. Then keep on reading to learn about a devoted loan officer in Ecuador, the money management techniques of microfinance clients in Togo, and the surprising opportunities that Liberian microfinance institutions can create.

Continue Reading 5 March 2012 at 09:00 4 comments

Fa’a Samoa: Definitely Not About Girl Scout Cookies or ‘The Rock’

Adria Orr | KF 17 | Samoa

A view of Apia Harbor.

In case you're wondering...

Where exactly is that? Isn’t that a cookie? Common responses to my placement in Samoa. Given that few, if any, of my friends and family were able to point to it on a map, I believe I have arrived off the beaten path. In the last two and a half weeks, I’ve received an immersive eduction on my MFI’s policies and practices, the nature of microfinance in Samoa, and of course, Samoa itself.

In case you didn’t know, Samoa is a tropical island nation, consisting of two main islands (‘Upolu and Savai’i) and about 200,000 people. Since even my ridiculously-well-traveled fellow KF17ers have peppered me with questions about the country so small it sometimes doesn’t make it on the map, I figured I would focus on sharing some of the special things about Samoa I’ve experienced that you wouldn’t quite get from the Wikipedia article.

(more…)

27 February 2012 at 11:12 5 comments

Update From The Field: Client Visits In Bethlehem, A New Partnership In Cameroon + A Peek Into A Loan Officer’s World

Compiled by Allison Moomey | KF16 & KF17 | Bénin 

KF17 fellows have now made their way into the field, which means new workplaces, new countries, and new cultures for us all. Even more importantly it means fascinating new blog posts from every corner of the globe for you. Check out this week’s posts and join fellows as they observe microfinance in action Palestine, share about a great new partner in Cameroon, visit a village bank in Peru, and adjust to life in Togo. Then continue reading to learn about a cricket-raising business in Indonesia, microsavings in Mozambique, Senegalese politics, an apartment search in Mongolia, and a loan officer training in the Philippines.

Continue Reading 27 February 2012 at 02:56 5 comments

First Day as a Kiva Fellow in Cambodia

Jen Truong | KF17 | Cambodia

After experiencing my first day at work as a Kiva Fellow, I can tell you this much: One should always expect the unexpected! For me (and I feel incredibly fortunate for this), most of my unexpecteds so far have turned out to be only pleasant. Below, I have listed some details and thoughts of my first days being in Cambodia and at my MFI, MAXIMA, that I hope you will find at least entertaining.

The Expected:

1. Cambodia’s weather
Cambodia is humid! Granted, this is coming from someone who has lived in the Arizona desert pretty much her entire life, so I’m just being a bit more dramatic than I should be. Thankfully, my one-room apartment that I am renting from a family has air conditioning, which has helped the adjustment go much more smoothly. I am sweating less and less buckets as the days progress, and I’ve noticed that if I gradually wean myself off of the cool air, I will soon no longer need it at all! It doesn’t sound like something to be that proud of, but it’s funny how easily we take something like air conditioning for granted. Most people I’ve talked to don’t use or have air conditioning in their homes at all.

2. Homesickness
It would be a lie if I told you that I haven’t thought about being back home at all. I miss it. I miss conveniently knowing where everything is and who I’m going to see everyday. But, it is also for that reason that I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be in Cambodia. Each day I’ve seen something new–made new friend. I really can’t complain about that.

3. Street children
It is a known problem in Cambodia. Many people discourage giving money to these children as it only perpetuates the situation and puts them at even higher risk of getting into worse things in the future. Instead, I’ve been searching for local NGOs that aim to help protect street children and youth. I had dinner last night at Friends, the Restaurant (called Mith Samlanh in Cambodian). Friends is a training restaurant run by former street youth and their teachers. The food is delicious (a fusion of American and Cambodian cuisine) and the people are beyond hospitable here. (more…)

13 February 2012 at 18:44 18 comments

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

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

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

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

Update from the Field: Adapting for Borrowers by Borrowers, Microinsurance +SKFL

Compiled by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

A Warm Welcome! Manana offers the best from her garden. By DJ Forza, Georgia

This week’s Fellows Blog focuses on adaptability: Adapting microinsurance to poor households in Indonesia, an MFI in Turkey adapts to the needs of women entrepreneurs, a multifaceted borrower in Nepal adapts to market pressures, and a Kiva Fellow adapts to changing expectations. In a continuation of The Stuff Kiva Fellows Like series we hear how different fellows have adapted to their lives abroad by ‘crashing parties’ and ‘going to the Bazaar’. We hear about how practitioners are adapting finance and microinsurance products to their borrowers. Equally nimble we hear from a few borrowers and how they have expertly adapted to market pressures and changing circumstance. Microfinance is a dynamic industry by nature and like DJ or Binu or Maya Enterprise for Micro Finance, ensuring success means staying flexible and welcoming new opportunities born out of challenges. (more…)

28 November 2011 at 01:01 5 comments

Stuff Kiva Fellows Like #10-17

Compiled by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

We are Kiva Fellows. This is the stuff we like. Here is an insider (often critical, or satirical but always true!) view of what it means to be a Kiva Fellow and promote access to financial services around the world. From party crashing to bazaars to street food, these are the things we like and thrive on. Check out Stuff Kiva Fellows Like (SKFL) #1-9!

#10 Street Food

Mariela Cedeño, KF16, Cochabamba, Bolivia

I’m not really sure why, but there is something inherently appealing to a Kiva Fellow’s being about food that is prepared, cooked, and sold on the streets. Perhaps it’s the dubiously hygienic food preparation, the alternative cooking apparatus used to bring food to fire, or it’s ready availability and our relative laziness…wait, no, it’s actually our need to literally ‘taste’ the local culture. In our fits of street food deliriousness we are open and ready to taste all that our surroundings have to offer, however, we often find that the local fare may not quietly find a home in our stomachs. Thankfully, before leaving to our local assignments, our travel nurses reminded us that in times of intestinal woe, Cipro and other like antibiotics will be our best friend. They sometimes are, but because we are well versed in the dangers of overusing antibiotics and are haunted by nightmares of creating giant super bacteria that start kidnapping local women and children, we use them sparingly and wisely. (more…)

25 November 2011 at 16:00 6 comments

Microinsurance in Indonesia: Current Challenges and Innovations

By Laurie Young, KF16, Indonesia

I was fortunate enough to be invited to accompany the Director of VisionFund Indonesia to attend the ‘First Microinsurance Marketplace in Indonesia’ coined ‘MIMPI.’ The event was a joint effort by the Indonesian Insurance Council, World Bank and the IFC. There were speakers, panels, and exhibitions over the course of the two days aiming to create a marketplace environment rather than that of traditional conference. Below, I hope to provide you with the current challenges facing the industry based on presentations and discussions during the two-day event. Additionally, I will present some of the product innovations and ideas that have been recently, or are going to be, introduced in Indonesia in an attempt to increase access to insurance for the poor.

Continue Reading 22 November 2011 at 00:15 2 comments

Questions from the Field: Why Do We Lend, What’s a Kiva Fellowship + How does Microfinance Support Green & Agricultural Development?

Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF16, Peru

Last week’s stories from the field elucidate readers on questions far and wide, and pose a few questions of their own: what is a Wandering Kiva Fellow, and is a Kiva Fellowship right for you? How can microloans support a green or agriculturally sustainable economy? In a country bouncing back from a civil war, how can international aid and microfinance help (or hurt)? What social programs are our partners supporting across the world, and how can microfinance support HIV-postive microborrowers? And finally, a question we put to you lenders: How do You Lend?

Continue Reading 21 November 2011 at 13:21 1 comment

Update from the Field: New Products in Microfinance, Over-Indebtedness + Transparency

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

This week on the Kiva fellows blog, start out by learning about three new microfinance products – microinsurance in Indonesia, higher education loans in the Philippines and green and water loans in Kenya. Continue on to Nepal to admire the handiwork of artisan borrowers. Make your way to Ecuador to find out more about the risk of indebtedness. Share the fellows’ personal experiences with the recent elections in Nicaragua and rush hour traffic in Uganda. Finish by taking a critical look at transparency in microfinance and Kiva’s responsibility with regards to transparency.

Continue Reading 15 November 2011 at 06:44 3 comments

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