Posts tagged ‘Armenia’

Update from the Field: Borrower Feedback on Innovative Products, Sounds from the Field,

Compiled by David Gorgani | KF17 + KF18 | Guatemala

Through motivating stories, informative videos, intriguing sound bytes and interesting first-hand accounts, this week’s update is quite the smorgasbord of stories from the field. Through accounts of first business loans and stories about successful community banks, Fellows in Georgia and Peru show us the effects of our loans; through sights, sounds and narratives, Fellows in Guatemala and New Orleans (among others) show us – and let us hear – bits of their daily lives; and through detailed accounts of interactions with field partners, Fellows in Burkina Faso, Uganda and Bolivia show us the great work Kiva’s collaborators are performing on the ground.

Continue Reading 13 August 2012 at 09:00 2 comments

Update from the Field: Innovation, Vibrant Cities and Stories and Lessons from Borrowers

Compiled by David Gorgani | KF17 + KF18 | Guatemala

It’s official – the Fellows have taken to the field! This week’s update touches on many different Fellows’ experiences visiting Kiva borrowers in the field and traces the similarities and differences we face in our borrower visits, all with a strong undertone of inspiration. Let’s face it folks, this is why we chose to volunteer 3+ months of our time for the Fellowship – to talk to the very people that you read about on Kiva.org. However, it is also clear through posts that cover other topics that a Kiva Fellowship is a much more diverse package than simply meeting Kiva borrowers; it comes with a number of side effects that include living in vibrant locations, jumping to the forefront of the field of microfinance, meeting inspirational people on our off time, and many more. As always, expect to learn some new things from this week’s stories from the field.

Continue Reading 16 July 2012 at 09:00 5 comments

United They Stand: The First Steps in Micro-finance

By Ward Lassoe / KF-18 / Armenia

Recently, I had the chance to experience micro-finance at its very earliest stages. It started with a visit to some Kiva borrowers in the one of the poorer regions of Armenia. We were in the northeastern corner of the country, near the border with Azerbaijan.

This farmer and others got loans through Nor Horizon, one of Kiva’s partners in Armenia, but there are many other local farmers who are not financially stable enough to qualify for a Kiva loan. That may change soon thanks to a new initiative where local farmers are banding together to improve their overall economic situation. (more…)

14 July 2012 at 08:00 3 comments

Update from the Field: Thoughts on Home (New and Old), Fun Experiences and First Days

Compiled by David Gorgani | KF17 + KF18 | Guatemala

As we begin to get a feel for our new placements and our new countries, we Fellows have also begun to ponder items ranging from local business realities to simply why we love what we do. The nine posts in this update give a great deal of insight into the work of a Fellow, local culture in the locations in which we are placed, and most importantly, where these elements come together to give a brief overview of what it means to be a newly-arrived Kiva Fellow.

Continue Reading 2 July 2012 at 09:00 4 comments

Apricots, Vodka, and Videotape: My introduction to Armenian hospitality

By Ward Lassoe / KF-18 / Armenia

I’d read about Armenian hospitality. I’d heard about it. But last week, I got a chance to experience it.

My first assignment as a Kiva Fellow was to videotape interviews with current and past borrowers in Armenia. I’m lucky because these interactions with local borrowers are always a highlight of a Kiva Fellowship.

But as I headed out the first day with some staff members from SEF International (one of Kiva’s micro-finance partners in Armenia), I wasn’t sure how the experience would go. How would the borrowers react to being videotaped? Would the whole process be awkward and uncomfortable?  (more…)

1 July 2012 at 08:00 24 comments

New Beginnings

By Caree Edson, KF14, Armenia

I was having lunch with a colleague who wants to practice his English when he offered to take me out into the field to witness a day in the life of a regional manager. It was here that I realized that sometimes years worth of schooling happens in a single day on the other side of the world and there is no substitute for witnessing first-hand how and why microfinance works.

Continue Reading 28 April 2011 at 09:44 2 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

Expectations

By Caree Edson, KF 14, Armenia

There were incredible stories of resiliency on the Kiva website that moved me to sacrifice my stable income, access to hot water and balanced nutrition, not to mention consistent contact with my friends and family back home for a few short months in pursuit of furthering my knowledge in the field of microfinance. In short, the reason I became a Kiva Fellow was to fulfill Kiva’s mission of “connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty”. I could think of nothing I’d rather be doing with my days than meeting farmers and small business owners on the other side of the world and sharing their stories with all of you. I informed a few borrowers last week that I journeyed all the way from the US to meet them and hear their stories, and I meant every word.

Continue Reading 20 April 2011 at 04:22 4 comments

“The Good Family”

By Caree Edson, KF14, Armenia

It was about noon on a gorgeous Spring day in Goris, Armenia when I showed up at the local SEF branch to meet the employees there. Goris is stunning in its natural beauty. The city center resides at the bottom of a bowl with caves and mountains towering on every side.

The tiny, three-person staff of the SEF branch welcomed me with tea, brownies and chocolate (a custom I plan to take back home with me) and were thrilled for the opportunity to show me around. The only question was how many borrowers I would like to visit. Since the day was getting later, I asked them to pick their two favorite Kiva borrowers and introduce me. With no agenda, other than training on how to take fabulous profile photos, we were off on a four-wheel drive trek around the villages to see two of the area’s farmers.

Continue Reading 3 April 2011 at 12:36 5 comments

New Horizons- A Fellow’s First Field Visit

By Caree Edson, KF 14, Armenia

While Kiva works with three microfinance institutions in Armenia, I have, thus far, only had the privilege to spend time with the staff at one. When I was offered an opportunity to do some Borrower Verifications for Nor Horizon (another partner institution), I jumped at the chance. Borrower Verifications, while requiring a lot of time and effort on the part of the fellows, are by far the best part of this journey. They entail going out into the field with credit officers and meeting with clients to ensure the accuracy of the information being uploaded on Kiva’s website. In Armenia this makes for a fantastic way to spend a Friday.

Continue Reading 19 March 2011 at 05:22 4 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

A Month in Armenia

As I look back, I can’t believe it’s been a month already since I left my home in Colorado to serve as a Kiva Fellow in Armenia. It has felt much longer with incredible experiences, both positive and negative, that will surely shape my future in ways that I have yet to discover.

Where in the world is Yerevan, Armenia?

When I told people that I would be going to Armenia as a Kiva Fellow, the first response was always “WHERE IS THAT?” Most mixing it up with Romania or to my Spanish speaking students back home- “Alemania”( Germany). I could understand their difficulty – as it is such a small country that it is abbreviated “Arm.” on many maps.

I was anxious and enthusiastic as I boarded a plane after training at Kiva headquarters in San Francisco, and set out to learn all I could about this tiny country in my 3 ½ months as a fellow with SEF International in Yerevan. This excitement was only mildly lessened by the 27 hour flight + 8 hour layover in London on the way.

I had the good fortune to overlap in time with the previous fellow working with SEF- Abhishek. He was invaluable to me as he helped with everything from setting up a cell phone on my first day, showing me around the city, and introducing me to all of his wonderful friends, who quickly accepted me into their group as their newest family member.

Of course, in any new place, one discovers many trials and reasons to be grateful for what we have access to in our home countries. For example, I quickly discovered after moving to an apartment on the 11th floor why most Armenians try to live below the 6th floor. Consistent access to water is something that just doesn’t happen on the floors above this level. Pumps are inefficient in these old Soviet structures and water doesn’t always reach those of us living at higher levels. There is also a limited supply and once the water is gone, there’s nothing that can be done. To solve this issue, many people have storage tanks in their apartments and if mine wasn’t always leaking, I would have better access to water throughout the day. Electricity and gas are quite expensive and highly unreliable as well. This takes some planning, but does not deter from the awesome experience of living in Yerevan.

During my first few weeks, the wonderful and welcoming staff at SEF were very busy catching up on figures from the end of the previous year and were off to a slow start as the holidays lasted well into the second week of January. (Christmas is celebrated on January 6th here ). I learned that it is customary for borrowers to repay any loans they can and start the year off with no debt- an excellent custom, I think-and so we saw a few early repayments on loans that were not due in full for another year. SEF offers Kiva borrowers the opportunity to take either small business loans to improve their shops with inventory, air conditioning, ovens, and more, or to gain access to agricultural loans. SEF serves 6 regions in Armenia and offers a unique 36-month term on agricultural loans which allows farmers to weather the difficult seasons and take advantage of the profitable seasons before repaying. I understood quickly how organized and efficient SEF’s office and staff are. They are a growing institution and each member holds a significant workload and responsibility, but they all made time to greet me and welcome me to the team- conveying all the while how important they feel their partnership with Kiva is. Borrowers were slowly trickling back into the office to get new loans and we enjoyed some down time so I took the opportunity to get to know the city.

Walking the streets of Yerevan- with infrastructure that is obviously influenced by both Europe and Russia- you can find anything you desire from fashion, a variety of restaurants, coffee shops and beautiful parks with mini-amusement park rides. The capitol, however, does not reflect the rest of the country by any means.

With an average annual income of around $5000 per year, and a struggling economy, Armenia has suffered the loss of a quarter of its population since independence in 1991 in an exodus for better economic situations elsewhere. Armenians hold fiercely onto their national identity and make consistent efforts to unite the 3 million Armenians actually living inside these borders with the 8 million Armenian diaspora who are spread all over the world. Armenia has been conquered and carved up so many times that each generation has had to start anew. Once part of the Persian empire, then the Ottoman empire, then the Soviet Union, dealing with genocide, wars, restricted religious freedoms, and trouble along two borders, Armenians know how to handle adversity with patience and resiliency.

It is this spirit of resiliency that I most admire at the moment. I was involved in a very bad car accident this past weekend while riding home in a taxi. Three cars collided and we are still unclear as to how many people didn’t make it. One person passed away for sure and the car was on fire when I left the scene. I was lucky to walk away with only a dislocated hand and two sprained ankles.

Aside from being shaken up, I am doing fine now thanks to my incredible new friends that have dedicated each day to bringing me food, flowers, candy, cake, cheering me up, and mostly making me feel cared for and taken care of in the same way I would be at home. My Kiva Coordinator at SEF, Rouzan, immediately dropped everything at work to pick me up and took me to the best doctor in town to get x-rays done and make sure I was ok. I don’t know what I would do without the amazing people that I have been blessed to meet in the past three weeks and am in awe of the caring nature and warmth of the Armenian people.The doctors were kind and patient and a woman even stayed with us for four hours to translate at the hospital even though it was very late and she didn’t even work there.

I have also been grateful to the staff at Kiva and my fellow Kiva Fellows around the globe for their emails, phone calls and tremendous support. Working in developing countries involves many risks. Kiva Fellows have taken time off of work and left their lives of comfort knowing the risks involved to learn first-hand what a difference microfinance can make on the ground to those that need it.  While it is not always glamorous, or 100% safe, it certainly entails excitement and opportunities for growth and this is truly a wonderful network to be a part of.

I know that each day will bring me closer to full health and mobility and am grateful for the opportunity to continue my fellowship with the fantastic, caring people at SEF. Business at SEF is picking up and new loans are coming in. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of their borrowers please consider lending today. We are hoping to surpass the 100 member mark on our lending team Team Armenia, and are very close. Join today and help us to get the word out to family and friends.

Caree Edson is a Kiva Fellow (KF14) serving in Yerevan, Armenia with SEF International.  She is becoming quite adept at using just her left hand for everything she needs.  To find out more about becoming a fellow click here.

16 February 2011 at 04:45 10 comments

Expectations vs. Reality

By: Abhishek Banerjee, KF13, Armenia

As my fellowship at SEF International comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on my experience. I compare it to the expectations I had before arriving in Yerevan and to the experiences the other fellows have had in their respective countries. While I knew very little about Armenia before coming here, I had read everything (not much!) I could find. Some of my expectations were fully surpassed. Others helped me understand the problems the country faces going forward.

Continue Reading 29 January 2011 at 11:59 1 comment

No Place Like Home

By Abhishek Banerjee, KF13, Armenia

This is the first Christmas I will be spending away from home. Even though I left home at 18 and have spent a lot of time travelling on my own, I have always made it back in time for the holidays. This time around, I will be celebrating with a bunch of expats and some Armenians who find Christmas on December 25th to be amusing enough to get involved.

You see, Armenians follows the Gregorian calendar and as such, Christmas falls on January 6th. As a result, December 25th is just another day for most Armenians. Occasionally, someone will see a foreigner like myself and say ‘Merry Christmas!’, if only to see my reaction. As I sit here on the evening of December 24th, I can’t help but think about Christmas back home.

Continue Reading 25 December 2010 at 19:00

Goodbye Mr. Socialism

In 1991, the Soviet Union broke apart and Armenia re-established its independence. However, remnants of its Soviet history can be found throughout the country. Major infrastructure projects implemented under Soviet leadership still stand tall throughout the cities. One of the more interesting transformations across Yerevan has been the emergence of markets in former industrial or commercial buildings.

Continue Reading 10 December 2010 at 13:30 1 comment

Devil is in the Execution

By Abhishek Banerjee, KF13 Armenia

Spending the last couple of days in the beautiful landscape of rural Armenia has left me in awe. It has also given me an appreciation for the role that loan officers play in often trying circumstances to get their job done.

Continue Reading 15 November 2010 at 10:00 4 comments

Sharing Risotto with my MFI…

By Vanick Der Bedrossian, KF12.
What is the best way to get a whole office of micro-credit employees together on short notice?
Today I found the answer: pumpkin risotto.
As I am nearing the end of my Kiva fellowship in Armenia, I got together with my MFI staff at SEF International for a goodbye lunch. Armenia is known for its great barbecues, so I decided to cook up something new…and vegetarian.

Continue Reading 26 October 2010 at 12:00 4 comments

The Cost of Clothing in Armenia

By Vanick Der Bedrossian, KF12 – Armenia

If I know anything about Armenia, it’s that people here know how to dress up. On any given night, Yerevan’s main opera square looks like a fashion show: beautiful women and handsome men are dressed up in nice clothes and are struting about, arm in arm.
Until recently I had no idea how much clothing cost here, or even where it came from. A few days ago I went on a Kiva borrower visit in a clothing market in central Yerevan.

Continue Reading 21 September 2010 at 05:09 2 comments

Angela’s 10th Loan In 10 Years…And Her First Time On Kiva

By Vanick Der Bedrossian, KF12 – Armenia

I recently travelled to the small Armenian town of Sevan to visit a Kiva partner’s branch office. Armenians flock to Sevan throughout the year to enjoy either a lazy day at the beach, attend a wedding reception, or just to visit the Sevanavank monastery, which is nestled atop a scenic mountain overlooking the Sevan Lake. Due to tourism, this town serves as an important marketplace where people from surrounding communities come to buy clothes, household goods, and food.

Continue Reading 26 August 2010 at 09:15

Sharing my Desk with a Tractor…

By Vanick Der Bedrossian, KF12 – Armenia
“What in the world is a diesel earth tractor doing in my MFI’s office!”, I thought to myself as I walked into Nor Horizon Credit Organization’s central office here in Yerevan, Armenia. Being a bit nervous on my first day at work, I did not ask.

Continue Reading 11 August 2010 at 00:16 4 comments

10 Things I Learned

By Peter Tashjian, KF11 Armenia

10 Random Things I Learned during my Kiva Fellowship:

1. Most people are good but carry memories of bad experiences. As soon as they address and resolve their interpretation of those experiences, their outlook on life improves almost immediately.

2. It’s a very emotional and life changing experience when a Kiva “Borrower Profile” you helped post is funded by hundreds of amazing “strangers” from around the world. Seeing the smiling faces of these lenders is very empowering.

3. Though the media reports mostly the negatives, the good work being done behind the scenes far outweigh the negatives which media chooses to focus on.

4. Kiva lends to entrepreneurs who are already on the road to helping themselves.  This is not charity.

5. Being a Kiva Fellow is challenging work.  The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more effective you become in your mission to help reduce poverty.

6. When you are happy with yourself, everything and everyone around you suddenly improve. 

7. I learned that the Armenian people in Yerevan, Armenia are art lovers. They make the art accessible to ordinary citizens and tourists by frequently having free concerts in various city centers along with art exhibitions.

8. Delicious apricots were originated in Armenia. A song by the name of Apricot Stone was entered in Eurovision 2010.

9. I was reminded that my life in Los Angeles is amazing, though I often forget this.

10. Don’t underestimate how much “strangers” care.  Just look at the lenders on Kiva.org if you need a reminder.

1 July 2010 at 13:59 2 comments

Should we be lending to men?

Recently, some interesting data was brought to my attention. Apparently women entrepreneurs are able to raise funds more quickly than men in the world of Kiva.

Continue Reading 31 May 2010 at 23:12 13 comments

Does the world care about you?

While we go around looking for that one person who can be our “world”, we sometimes forget that there is a “real world” out there as well

Continue Reading 4 May 2010 at 07:14 14 comments

Kiva takes on Google?

Kiva goes where Google stops.

Continue Reading 23 April 2010 at 11:54 10 comments

Holiday Greetings – KF9 on Christmas

By KF9, All Over The World

Merry Christmas! This holiday season Kiva Fellows are celebrating Christmas all over the world, in all sorts of different ways. Whether it be traveling, feasting, or working hard to bring you some additional Kiva magic over the holidays, it’s safe to say we’re all thankful to be serving as Kiva Fellows and glad to have found a wonderful community in Kiva.

We wanted to share what Christmas is like for KF9ers out in the field and around the world. So enjoy – and happy holidays!

In no particular order:

Nicki Goh, KF9 Senegal
This coming weekend, the Senegalese have a 4 day weekend with both Christian and Islamic holidays straddling the weekend. I will make the most of the time off work to visit the Sine-Saloum Delta on the Atlantic coast of Senegal – an area where my MFI SEM’s work is extremely important to ecovillagers. The delta is an area of immense natural beauty which is sadly at risk of desertification and where there is a high level of unemployment. This time I will be on vacation but I hope to return there at a later date to meet some of the borrowers for myself. Happy holidays to you all – whatever your religion!

(more…)

25 December 2009 at 02:36 5 comments

The Mayors of Microfinance

By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

After making several visits to various borrower communities in the rural villages throughout Armenia, I started to notice a familiar figure emerge.  Each village seemed to have a mayor.  Not a mayor in the traditional, sash-wearing, top-hat donning, political scandal-causing sense, but a mayor of microfinance. (more…)

22 December 2009 at 14:27 3 comments

The Human Factor: Relationships Are What Make Microfinance Go

By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

I have alluded to it several times in the past in some of my posts.  While maybe writing a sentence or mentioning a few words here or there, I think it deserves its own post because it’s turning out to be one of the central themes of what I have learned here about microfinance in Armenia.  The Human Factor. (more…)

18 December 2009 at 08:51 5 comments

We Have to Know Our History Too? (part 2)

By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

The symbol of Karabakh, grandmother and grandfather

I wrote about a week ago before embarking on a trip to Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region southeast of Armenia known as being a conflict zone between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  I left in hopes of better grasping the political melee between the countries in the South Caucasus and how this plays into the Armenian identity.  Hopefully this would garner some insight into the role of microfinance in Armenia as part of my 4 month crash-course to this completely new part of the world.

(more…)

6 December 2009 at 01:57 5 comments

We Have to Know Our History too? (Part 1)

By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

Mt Ararat lies just across the Turkish border, miles from Yerevan, Armenia's capital

Since arriving in Armenia, I’ve tried as much as possible to be a sponge.  Attempting to soak up everything there is to know about microfinance, cultural tendencies here, and especially current political happenings. Coming from the United States, a relative kindergartener historically-speaking compared to cane-wielding Armenia, and without a particularly strong allegiance to any real ethnic identity, (despite my name sounding more Irish than the potato famine) it’s hard to fully comprehend the Armenian history and deep-rooted identity.  The country has existed for so many years in so many different forms, changed its borders many times, and suffered devastating tragedy during its history. (more…)

25 November 2009 at 11:30 3 comments

What a Loan Smells Like:

By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

Not very good, at least in some of these Armenian villages I’ve been dropping in on lately.  Have you smelled a chicken coop, or a sty filled with 20 pigs lately? It’s tough to carry a conversation in there.  Visiting borrowers, at least in Armenian villages is quite the sensory overload.  You will smell more than you hoped to, probably taste something you never expected to, and perhaps hear a story that will inspire you to start your own apricot grove.

Atashat Borrower

Haaaayyyy. This will feed the animals throughout the winter, looks tasty

Kiva does an interesting thing.  It helps put stories to the often boringly academic discipline of microfinance.  Without the stories, Kiva would struggle to fund loans as quickly as it does.  They help to strike a chord inside of us that increases willingness to lend or donate because of a connection felt on a human level.  But you probably know all of that already, (or have read some of the chatter) and this spiel sounds all good and nice, but what does a loan really LOOK like.  What does it feel like, taste like up close?  How is access to credit really affecting the borrower?  Well that question is one of the unique opportunities that Kiva Fellows get to ask and hopefully attempt to answer.

(more…)

8 November 2009 at 14:15 9 comments

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