Posts filed under ‘Cambodia’

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

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

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

Update from the Field: Expanding the Reach of Microfinance, Downsizing Development + Why We Kiva

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

This week, you have no fewer than 14 new articles to choose from on the Kiva fellows blog: Let the fellows take you along on borrower visits across the world. Learn how Kiva field partners expand the reach of microfinance in Rwanda, fill the microfinance donut hole in Sierra Leone and improve social performance in Uganda. Find out what poverty is like in urban Tajikistan and rural Burkina Faso. Get inspired by one of the creative ways to bring renewable energy to the developing world in the form of a soccer ball. And finally, watch a video of “Why We Kiva” to get a glimpse of why Kiva fellows jump at the opportunity to be thrown half way around the world to work with Kiva’s many local field partners.

Continue Reading 31 October 2011 at 02:49 5 comments

Updates from the Field: Green Loans, Dark Alleys + On-the-Ground Footage of it All

Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF16, Peru

Want a fresh look at Kiva clients on-the-ground? This week fellows share stories and mixed-media that bring us directly into the cities, homes and pulperías of borrowers. From the marketplace in Bolivia, to the streets of Guayaquil, to the dumps of Kenya, we learn about the challenges of working in developing countries and the strategies loan officers and Fellows can use to mitigate them. Not to mention we can see the work of Kiva fellows and Kiva Field Partners in Cambodia, Honduras and Bolivia in living color. What’s even better than reading a post by a Kiva Fellow? Seeing what we see in the field for yourself!

Continue Reading 24 October 2011 at 02:00 2 comments

Making Room for Charity: Gift Giving to the Poorest Clients at CREDIT

By Dave Weber, KF16 Cambodia

CREDIT does more than administer loans and savings products to help alleviate poverty. An initiative of theirs called VSU distributes gifts to their poorest clients. Read on and watch a video of the gift distribution.

Continue Reading 17 October 2011 at 09:00 4 comments

Update from the Field: Loan Use, Agriculture Loans + Stuff Kiva Fellows Like

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

This week on the Kiva fellows blog: Hop on a poda-poda or an okada to try out an adventurous way to get around Sierra Leone. Find out why loan use in Tajikistan is not as straightforward as you may think. Learn how the principle of “trust but verify” is applied in Georgia. Explore the clever efforts of an Ecuadorian Kiva partner to craft an agricultural loan product that is appropriate to farmers’ needs. Welcome Kiva’s new field partner, VisionFund Cambodia. Learn how village banking works in Ecuador.

Continue Reading 10 October 2011 at 02:00 8 comments

VisionFund Cambodia Struts onto the Kiva Catwalk with Class

By Dave Weber, KF16 Cambodia

Put your party hats on, because we have something to celebrate! Please join me in welcoming Kiva’s newest field partner, VisionFund Cambodia! Read further to hear about their first 3 clients from Cambodia’s Kandal Province.

Continue Reading 5 October 2011 at 09:00 6 comments

Update from the Field: Going Pilot to Active, Meeting Borrowers + Technology and Social Performance

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

It has been a busy week for bloggers. The 16th class of Kiva fellows (KF16) hits the ground running and invites you to share their first experiences in their host countries across the globe. Arrive in Georgia just in time for harvest season. Continue to Sierra Leone to watch a new Kiva field partner go from pilot to active. Jump out of a plane in Rwanda – but not without a few parachutes – and learn more about agricultural loans. Bump into a Kiva borrower in Ecuador. Travel to Burkina Faso – a poor country rich in culture. Study the effects of technology on social performance of microfinance institutions in Cambodia. And to top it all off, immerse yourself in the generosity and kindness of the people of Paraguay.

Continue Reading 19 September 2011 at 01:34 7 comments

Can Technology Influence MFI Social Performance?

By Dave Weber, KF16 Cambodia

The microfinance industry has been slow to adopt information and communication technologies. Therefore, they are in the technological transitional period that most organizations in the developed world already traversed in the late 20th century. These technologies radically change the way that MFIs operate. There has also been an impetus as of late to encourage social performance among MFIs. Theoretically, we can make a connection between technological capabilities and MFI social performance, but the empirical and anecdotal evidence have yet to be uncovered.

Continue Reading 16 September 2011 at 09:00 1 comment

Updates from the Field: Costs of Kiva, Donkey Shares + the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns

Over the course of their fellowship, each Kiva Fellows class gleans a better understanding of innerworkings of microfinance and how a microfinance institution (MFI) can tip the scales of success. We begin to glimpse behind the scenes costs of Kiva to our Field Partners and to comprehend the reasoning behind “high” interest rates across the entire field of microfinance. We’re let in on the secrets to success which keep an organization running and financially viable for five years, and we learn about innovative development of programs- be they microfinance or donkey-shares- in a niche market. Over the course of our fellowships, we obtain these invaluable and instructive lessons piecemeal, and together can contribute to the conversation on a whole. Thus, as one class of fellows departs and another begins, this week our fellows share our insights with you!

Continue Reading 5 September 2011 at 08:00 7 comments

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

Happy Earth Day from Kiva Fellows around the Globe!

Compiled by Caree Edson, KF 14, Armenia

One of the unfortunate sight-seeing adventures that you never sign up for when you travel (especially in developing countries) is the unseemly amount of trash cluttering the otherwise beautiful landscapes. In Armenia, it isn’t possible to see the horizon through the smog most days and the streets are covered in cigarette butts and litter. I found no exceptions to this as I inquired from other Kiva Fellows about the dire situation in their countries. Environmental education and reform are simply not a top priority in many countries. But the future of climate change initiatives are not entirely hopeless…

Continue Reading 22 April 2011 at 11:06 3 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 Bare Necessities

By Stephanie Sibal, KF14, Cambodia


It oftentimes begins with the aspiration of achieving something bigger: many enterprising Kiva borrowers request loans to start new ventures or expand businesses. Some rely on a Kiva loan to remedy a setback.

However, not all borrowers take out loans with the intention of starting or growing a business. Coming from places where running water, electricity, and sometimes even a roof for their house are considered luxuries, countless borrowers request loans to improve the quality of their lives.

Three months and nearly a dozen trips into rural Cambodian provinces of Kampong Chhnang, Takeo, and Kandal have provided me with opportunities to chat intimately with borrowers who are grateful to lenders for allowing them what the developed world calls “the bare necessities.”

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8 April 2011 at 01:45 6 comments

Update from the Field: April Fools, Terrible Coffee + Getting Attached

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

We hope you enjoyed our April Fools post on Friday! While we were entertaining ourselves pulling it all together, we also found the time to attend to some serious matters: coffee in Colombia is no joke (in a bad way), some borrowers are easier to locate than others, and oftentimes Fellows must say goodbye to people and places before they’re ready to. We also learned about the “No Pago” movement in Nicaragua, the elections in Peru, what daily life is like for a Fellow in Bolivia, and how to sensibly and respectfully collect past-due payments in Ghana. Somehow there was even time to host a previous Fellow and a documentary film student in Colombia and to visit borrowers, eat chocolate, and stop for the view in Armenia.

Continue Reading 4 April 2011 at 00:46 8 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

Piece by Piece: The Garment Worker’s Loan

By Stephanie Sibal, KF14, Cambodia

Gritty streets, massive white buildings, heavily-guarded gates. These are a part the outside view, the experience of someone blindly walking by a garment factory in Cambodia. About 20 kilometers out of Phnom Penh are Ta Khmao and Kandal Sleung, regions well-known for the numerous garment and apparel production factories there.

Of course, there is more to garment production than the fashionable pieces that exit the factory for commercial sale; there is the story of the garment factory worker who works tirelessly to produce them.

Is it possible to support a family on factory wages?

 

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15 March 2011 at 18:22 3 comments

Kiva Fellows by the Numbers

By David McNeill (Sierra Leone) and Adam Cohn (Rwanda), with lots of help from the 14th class of Kiva Fellows

It turns out that one thing Kiva Fellows seem to have in common is a love for data. With that, Kiva Fellows David and Adam polled the current fellows in the field on the costs of various necessities and niceties in their current placements. The numbers, which we humbly title the Kiva Fellows Index, give some good insight into the conditions in the far-flung places we now live and work.

Far from home

Kiva Fellows are in it for the long haul. On average, we’re 5,745 miles away from home, as the crow flies. The fellows who have trucked the farthest, at least by line of sight, are: Adam Cohn, who crossed 8,892 miles from Seattle, WA to Kigali, Rwanda; Caitlin Ross, who also went to Kigali from her home in Burlingame, CA, for a total of 9,417 miles; and the longest haul goes to Lisa Skowron, who flew 9,519 miles from her home in Chicago, IL to Kupang, Indonesia!

Internet
The first prize for the slowest Internet speed goes to Carlos Cruz in Liberia, with a close second and third for Claudine Emeott in Nepal and David McNeill in Sierra Leone. They experience speeds 10-100 times slower than in the US, making them thankful to the Kiva engineers who make Kiva.org one of the quicker websites to load. At these speeds video chatting is impossible, voice is dodgy if possible at all, and emails aren’t even guaranteed to work. Forget about watching videos on YouTube or listening to Internet radio. Having Internet access is quickly becoming almost as important as having electricity or indoor plumbing.

Weather
Many of us are serving in hot parts of the world without the blessing of air conditioning. The unlucky winners in this category are neighbors in West Africa – Carlos Cruz in Liberia and David McNeill in Sierra Leone. They survive high temperatures in the low 90’s (F) and lows that only get down to the upper 70’s or low 80’s (F). Carlos, we hope you’ve got a fan and electricity to run it like David does (most of the time).

On the other side of the spectrum, Amber Barger is struggling to keep warm in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where it dips down to -9 (F) at night. David would be happy to trade one of his hot sunny beaches for some of Amber’s ice!

Amber trying to stay warm on her unheated camel ride in Mongolia

Housing
Carlos Cruz got the sweetest deal on rent, with free housing courtesy of his host microfinance institution in Liberia. The runner up is Gustavo Visalli in Totonicapan, Guatemala. He pays only $100/month, and that includes electricity, a flush toilet, and all the black beans and eggs he can eat!

Gustavo cooking up his all-you-can eat buffet in his sweet house in Guatemala

Transportation
There are some definite advantages to working in developing countries. Most of us spend less than $1 getting to work each day riding buses, motorcycles, or other modes of public transportation. For David in Sierra Leone, a ride in the back of a car taxi to a town 2.5 hours away only costs $3.50 (there are four people squished in a seat made for three, though). Stephanie Sibal has the sweetest deal on transportation – her host organization in Phnom Penh, Cambodia provides her a car and driver to bring her in to work in the morning.

With the cost of oil on the rise, we did a quick poll of gas prices where we are serving. The highest price is in South Africa at $5/gallon. If you want the cheapest price, you’ll have to drive to Indonesia ($2.15/gallon) or Kyrgyzstan ($2.73/gallon).

Refreshment
For refreshment, Stephanie Sibal is a definite winner – she only has to pay 15 cents for a Coke served in a plastic baggie! The following people have a four-way tie for the cheapest beer at only $1 a bottle: Stephanie Sibal again (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), John Gwillim (Barranquilla, Colombia), Geeta Uhl (Ayacucho, Peru), and John Farmer (Mexico City, Mexico). For coffee, some people like John Farmer have the luxury of a nearby Starbucks in Mexico City, Adam Cohn can drink 100% local coffee at multiple Bourbon locations in Rwanda, while poor Noreen Giga is still searching for a good cup in Lima, Peru.

Stephanie enjoying her Bag-o-Coke in Cambodia

As you can see, some of life’s necessities are more accessible, while others are prohibitive, for those who relocate to the other side of the globe. If you’d like to look at our full spreadsheet of stats, you can see it here.
Have you found places where a Coke is incredibly expensive, or internet is mind-blowingly slow? Let us know in the comments!

14 March 2011 at 04:00 8 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

Celebrating Women around the World!

Contributions from Kiva Fellows around the globe, compiled by Mei-ing Cheok.

Solidarity - A group of Ghanaian women after their weekly meeting with their loan officer

The beauty of microfinance is that it gives people at the wrong end of the income spectrum opportunities to step out of the poverty trap. It also provides women the confidence and security that comes from earning their own income, leading to greater gender equality.

Financially and economically empowering women, studies have shown, has a greater ‘trickle-down’ effect, as they tend to spend more of their earnings on the household expenses such as school fees and healthcare. Thus, it benefits not only themselves, but also their families and even their communities.

This International Women’s Day, Kiva Fellows celebrate individuals and organisations around the world who have contributed to the advancement of women in their communities. We salute you.

Cambodia: From Housewife to Entrepreneur

By Stephanie Sibal

Norn, entrepreneur from Cambodia

Norn, a petite 28-year-old former housewife with two young children, used to rely solely on her husband’s US$5 per day income as a blacksmith. With her loan, Norn braved her first ever trip outside her tiny neighborhood to buy groceries and opened up a store in front of her home. She can now make up to US$15 in gross income per day. While the ins and outs of running her own business are an ongoing learning process, Norn is thankful. She now has regular customers who have also become her friends. 

Ghana:  Freedom from Hunger

By Mei-ing Cheok

The Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN) provides thousands of micro loans to women in rural and semi-urban areas through its Freedom from Hunger programme. George Tokpo, Director of Operations, says, “When we empower women, they are able to provide their families. We acknowledge that women are more responsible when it comes to the upbringing of their children.” Mr Tokpo added that women make better clients, “Women are able to find jobs much more easily than men. They’re a lot more adaptable. If one business fails, they will pick something else up very quickly. This lowers the likelihood of defaults.” (read more about how microfinance is empowering women in Ghana here)

CRAN team: Gifty (in charge of borrower profiles), George (Director of Operations) and Cecilia (journal updates)

Rwanda: Francoise’s Fabulous Story

By Adam Cohn

In the video blog, meet Francoise, who started selling bananas with her first loan and today, owns a provision shop, land and is on her way to starting a farm. This goal-driven woman is providing for her family of eight and doing a great job of it.

Armenia: A tale of two women

By Caree Edson

Hripsik in her hair salon

Women’s Day is also celebrated in Armenia and because the holiday falls on a Tuesday this year, the government has declared Monday a holiday as well ensuring a nice long weekend for everyone.  While inquiring about women borrowers who stand out in SEF’s history of lending, I was immediately directed to Hripsik Movsisyan and Raya Martirosyan. These women lead vastly different lives -one owns a salon in the city, while the other works on her family’s farm in the countryside- but both represent the warmth and strength that I have come to appreciate in the Armenian people.

Hripsik is a hardworking widow with two children. She opened a salon in 2009 and applied for a loan from SEF for an air-conditioner to make her salon more comfortable during the hot summer months in Yerevan. This was a great move for the business and Hripsik was able to pay off the loan years before it was due in full.

Raya with her family and their cattle

Raya Martirosyan has been teaching math in a school in a tiny town named Agarak for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, her family cannot survive on her low wages and her farm is necessary for additional income and stability. She applied for a loan to buy cattle and has been paying her loan back consistently since September.

These women represent the struggles that many Armenian families face and the risks and hard work involved in making ends meet.  This coming women’s day should be a celebration of all the women making sacrifices everyday to better the quality of life for themselves and their families.

Bolivia: Guadalupe Cárdenas, a Remarkable Woman

By Klaartje Vreeken

Guadalupe (in blue) and women from Comité Cívico Popular de la Ciudad de El Alto

Guadalupe Cárdenas was beaten up by a policeman and lost her child in 2002. Three years ago, she started a new institution called Comité Cívico Popular de la Ciudad de El Alto, which fights for women’s and their children’s rights in El Alto, the city above La Paz where many poor Bolivians live.

The first campaign Guadalupe started was helping poor mothers to baptize their babies and to get their legal papers. Her institution provides the dresses for the babies and has so far, baptized around 10,000 babies.

In 2010 Guadalupe also campaigned against cervical cancer. Using an ambulance, they screened around 3,500 women for cervical cancer For 400 women, the cancer had already reached an advanced stage. However, Guadalupe’s group also managed to detect early stages of cancer in around 1,000 women.

Mexico: Champion for the People

By John Farmer

Pily, she's no zombie

CrediComun’s Kiva Coordinator, Pily, is a strong young woman who took part in the UNAM (the largest university in Mexico) student demonstrations in 1999, when the university announced that tuition would rise from practically nothing to around $150 per semester.  “We were a generation that protested, that mobilized; we risked our lives for something more than selfish interests, and we refused to play the role of a zombie.”

Her resume further illustrates her activism: working with street children in Chiapas, building houses for (and with) the poor on the outskirts of Mexico City, and working in the organic food industry. She has served as Kiva Coordinator for six months, and is moving to a new position within the company — she’ll be developing the social projects that CrediComun undertakes.

Kyrgyzstan: Man’s Day

And finally, we do have a tribute to men. Check out Charlie Wood’s recent blog on how to be a manly man.

Happy International Women’s Day!

The contributors to this blog are part of KF 14 (the 14th class of Kiva Fellows) scattered around the world.

Find out how you can lend to a Kiva Entrepreneur or become a Kiva Fellow.

7 March 2011 at 15:38 8 comments

Update from the Field: Videos, Epic Commutes + Going Beyond Microfinance

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

Another week, another incredible range of dispatches from around the world. Several Fellows told their stories with video and pictures while others took time to reflect on the state of microfinance as a global industry and in their respective countries. And what would a week in the field be without getting to know a few borrowers? Plus, scroll to the end of the post for pictures you may have missed the first time around.

Continue Reading 28 February 2011 at 00:38 10 comments

Microfinance Marketing 101: The Loan Officer

By Stephanie Sibal, KF14, Cambodia

In the last few weeks, while hopped up on caffeine from too many cups of instant coffee, when I was approached and asked to create a marketing plan for MAXIMA, the microfinance institution (MFI) hosting my Kiva Fellowship in Cambodia, I overeagerly agreed.

Prior to my fellowship, I spent some time working in public relations, so the task of creating a marketing plan wasn’t completely new to me. In order to get started, I needed to figure out how MAXIMA markets to its borrowers in the first place. I knew the first place to start was the ever-important loan officer.

“Today, we’re advertising.”
Loan officers have an unbelievably difficult and labor-intensive job. They have a long list of responsibilities: traveling long distances to meet with new or existing clients, disbursing a microloan, and collecting repayments. (Previous Kiva Fellows have written about the jobs of loan officers, in Vietnam and Ecuador)

Last week, I asked to tag along to with Vanna, one of MAXIMA’s loan officers, and found out exactly how crucial loan officers like him are to MAXIMA’s marketing program.

In short, he and other loan officers like him ARE the marketing program.

Vanna the loan officer, visiting a borrower and her grandchildren

 

(more…)

27 February 2011 at 19:13 5 comments

Mangoes and Motos: Visits to the field in Cambodia

By Stephanie Sibal, KF14, Cambodia

My first couple of weeks serving as a Kiva Fellow in Cambodia were in many ways, a true shock to my system. The country’s capital, Phnom Penh, is a dizzy blur of lights, motorbikes, colonial-inspired architecture, and savory street food aromas that take some getting used to. However, nothing snaps a Kiva Fellow out of homesickness faster than a visit (or two) to the field. While working with CREDIT, one of Kiva’s oldest partners in Cambodia, I had the pleasure of leaving the busy city life two visit two borrowers in rural provinces.

(more…)

9 February 2011 at 21:56 7 comments

My 3 Favorite Pictures from Cambodia

Big smile from a Kiva borrower

Cambodians have some of the biggest smiles I have ever seen. During my visits to Kiva borrowers in August and September of 2010, I was given a glimpse of life in rural Cambodia. Below I present some of the challenges of taking photos in the field and also some of my favorite photographs from the borrower visits. (more…)

5 January 2011 at 17:00 6 comments

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