Posts tagged ‘KF16 (Kiva Fellows 16th Class)’

A Mexican Tale of Women and Sheep

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

Who would have thought that my second Kiva Fellowship would teach me just as much about microfinance as about the rearing of sheep? Seriously, ask me anything you want: How do you best hold a lamb? How do you wrestle with a grown-up mutton? How do you treat sheep for worms? Where and how often do you set them a vaccine? How do you determine a sheep’s age? Why does a sheep bite normally neither hurt nor bleed? For what reason does a sheep have four stomach compartments? And how do you compel a lamb’s reluctant mother to accept her kid after birth? I owe this knowledge to UNAM-educated veterinarian Linda Velázquez Rosas, who made a sheep-expert not just out of me, but also out of 200 amateur sheep-owners in and around the little town of San Felipe del Progreso, two hours west of Mexico City. This training was made possible by Vision Fund Mexico (also known as Fundación Realidad or FRAC), a Kiva field partner that excels both at financial and non-financial services (in a previous blog post I documented an artisan fair in Mexico City that was co-organized by FRAC).

Continue Reading 6 July 2012 at 08:00 6 comments

Beyond Financial Services: Mexico’s Greatest Artisan Fair

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

Shortly after arriving at my first Mexican microfinance organization, FRAC (or Fundación Realidad, soon to be called Vision Fund Mexico), I had the joyful task of presenting in the name of Kiva two Social Performance Badges to its enthusiastic staff: one for Vision Fund Mexico’s strong and persistent focus on poor people, and one for the organization’s success in empowering families and communities. The description of the Family and Community Empowerment Badge on Kiva’s homepage immediately piqued my interest: it states that recipients of this badge “implement innovative business practices and offer services in addition to their financial products to meet the needs of the people they serve.” Innovative business practices and additional services beyond financial products? At FRAC? I began to ask members of FRAC’s staff and was soon pointed to some great examples of non-financial services that Vision Fund Mexico has provided in past months and year: they include support in product marketing and distribution given to beekeepers and artisan villages, over 380 free financial literary workshops for well over 4,000 borrowers, and free expert veterinarian training and medical services provided to hundreds of borrowers who are raising cows and sheep in their backyard. While I hope that some of these topics will be addressed by future guest blog posts of FRAC staff members (continuing the series that was started by Rosa’s gorgeous post on her recent field visit), I will report here on FRAC’s selfless contribution to Mexico’s largest artisan fair, the Expo FONAES. In many ways, this is just another example to David Gorgani’s great piece on the wide range of non-financial services that Kiva field partner organizations provide.

Continue Reading 22 June 2012 at 08:00 4 comments

Recycling for Life and Family in the Mexican Countryside

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

I have a confession to make: I love to browse Kiva borrower profiles – even occasionally without any actual intention to make a loan. I believe that reading the stories of borrowers from all over the world and knowing their dreams tells me more about a country and the mentality of its people than even the best of all travel guidebooks. And knowing some of the challenges they are facing in their lives and how they are surmounting them, being aware of the long hours they work every day and their dedication to their families – all this inspires me deeply and on a very personal level: if people can thrive under difficult circumstances thanks to incredibly hard work and a dream, then I should and will be able to do something meaningful and lasting with my own life as well! My Kiva lender profile reads: “I loan because… Kiva borrowers never cease to inspire me with their courage, talent, and dedication!”

That strong sense of inspiration that speaks to me out of every Kiva borrower’s history has been multiplied during my time in the field as a Kiva Fellow in the course of many personal meetings with borrowers. I have met literally dozens of borrowers who have left an indelible mark in my heart and mind. But recently I have met a borrower who is so extraordinary and unusual that even I – one of the more seasoned Kiva Fellows – was blown away. Her name is Ma de los Angeles and this blog entry tells the story of her work and her success.

Continue Reading 1 June 2012 at 08:00 6 comments

The Heart of Kiva – A Guest Blog from Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading 24 April 2012 at 08:58 5 comments

Hello Spring: It’s Time to Celebrate

Compiled by Kiyomi Beach | KF17 | Mexico

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

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

Continue Reading 20 April 2012 at 09:00 4 comments

20 Years in 2012: A Celebration of Serving the Filipino Poor

The new year is already in full swing and resolutions are being met or failed as we speak. This New Year’s celebrations, for me, was a little different as I got to spend a full week with Center for Community Transformation staff as they celebrated 20 years of growth and successful service to the poor in the Philippines. President Ruth Callanta spent time reflecting on the past but also casting vision for the future as CCT hopes to transform more communities in the Philippines and reach more marginalized people groups.

Continue Reading 22 January 2012 at 04:51 2 comments

What’s next for KF16? (Part 2)

Compiled by Laurie Young, KF16, Indonesia

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

Continue Reading 8 January 2012 at 20:54 1 comment

Same Continent, Different Worlds: Part 2

By Kiva Fellows in Africa, KF16
Compiled by Tejal Desai

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

Continue Reading 2 January 2012 at 13:00

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

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

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

Continue Reading 20 December 2011 at 04:00 1 comment

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

A Typical Day in the Life of a Kiva Fellow: Loan Officer Training (Video Blog Post)

By Emmanuel M. von Arx, KF 16, Guayaquil (Ecuador)

Video posts on a “typical day” in the life of a Kiva Fellow are a time-honored tradition on the Fellows Blog. Without any more words, here is my contribution to the video series of documenting a typical day in the life of a Kiva fellow. Like all previous contributors to the series, I am keenly aware that there is no “typical day” for Kiva Fellows. But taken together, the growing number of “typical day”-videos may at least convey something of the diversity, unpredictability, spontaneity, and joy that a typical untypical day of a Kiva Fellowship entails. Enjoy!

Continue Reading 6 December 2011 at 04:00 3 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

Multi-faceted Borrowers Part 2

By Abhinab Basnyat, KF 16, Nepal

Part 1 of this series is available at here

Similar to Narayan Devi, Binu is a multi-faceted entrepreneur. A previous Kiva loan helped her fund a tailoring business where she was able to employ a few other people. As a single mother, she recently moved to another part of town to be closer to her brother. Upon moving she closed her tailoring shop. The distance made it expensive and difficult to travel and manage her shop. One option would have been to start another tailoring business in her new locality. As an entrepreneur who is constantly looking out for new opportunities and has a desire to learn new skills she decided to open a small canteen.

Binu infront of her canteen

Her new residence is located close to a hospital, and after an initial survey of the area she noticed that the hospital did not have a canteen to serve the medical students, doctors and patients. Drawing from her brother’s experience in the restaurant business Binu received a loan to kickstart her small canteen. In the hour that I visited there was a steady flow of students who came for a quick snack between classes, doctors between shifts, and patients. Serving to a medical community, Binu is especially aware of the need to provide safe, tasty, hygienic snacks.

Medical student books and snacks

Binu infront of the counter

As I became more aware of Binu’s business acumen and desire to take measured risks, I inquired about her entrepreneurial drive. As a single mother, Binu is motivated, knowing that her wellbeing depends on her handwork, and her desire to provide her son with a good education. In the past even she had even ventured into growing mushrooms to sell in the local market, and explored going into the wholesale clothing business. The support of BPW-Patan and Kiva have been instrumental in providing borrowers like Binu and Narayan Devi the necessary financial resources to become a multi-faceted entrepreneur and improve their livelihoods.

Binu with her son

Although, these borrowers provided me with a first hand experience on how micro-finance impacted peoples’ lives, the nagging question in my mind had always been: how can micro-finance be scaled? For example, the purchase of a cow to sell milk provides an opportunity to generate income, but the scalability of this endeavor is limited until a second cow is purchased, and so forth. The industrious and multi-faceted entrepreneurship of Binu and Narayan Devi provided another dimension to micro-finance. There were borrowers who were actively taking measured risks and starting new micro-ventures. A single activity might not be scalable; but the desire and agility to transition and supplement one’s activity definitely yields the opportunity for greater returns.

Abhinab Basnyat is currently serving as a  Kiva Fellow in Nepal with BPW-Patan. To learn more about BPW-Patan go to their Field Partner Page on the Kiva website. Check out the BPW Patan Lending Team and consider making a loan to a woman entrepreneur from Nepal.

23 November 2011 at 08:00 1 comment

Multi-faceted Borrowers Part 1

By Abhinab Basnyat, KF 16, Nepal

I had always been fascinated by the textbook stories in micro-finance: loans to buy cattle or to start a small tea-shop that supported income generating activities and had a tangible impact on people’s lives. When I met Kiva borrowers, Narayan Devi and Binu, and heard their stories I suddenly had the visceral confirmation that had been amiss in textbooks. Yes, micro-finance loans played an influential role to uplift livelihoods. But more importantly, it was the borrowers’ multi-faceted entrepreneurship that magnified the impact of micro-finance.

A Kiva loan helped Naryan Devi, a mother of two, buy supplies for her store, which she runs with her husband. Her small shop while profitable to repay her loans is not enough to sustain her family and send her children to school. Narayan Devi is a multi-faceted entrepreneur who is always looking to learn new skills and apply her business acumen to new opportunities.

Narayan Devi at store with her husband

Two years ago Narayan Devi took a training on making a traditional Nepal sweet – pustakari  that is made up of khoa (a cheese like milk based product), peanut powder, sugar.

Narayan Devi making pustakari

She spent her spare time during the past six months experimenting and perfecting the sweet making process. For the last two months she has been producing batches enough to sell in her shop and the surrounding area. Sale of pustakaris have supplemented Narayan Devi’s income.

Packaged pustakari for sale

Unfortunately, some of the major sweet producers in the the Nepali were recently found to be producing sub-standard pustakaris. This resulted in an overall drop in demand for these sweets. In response, farmers in the upstream market have stopped converting their milk to khoa – an essential ingredient in the sweet making process. Since, Narayan Devi caters to her local market people still trust and purchase her sweets; however, she is facing difficulty in procuring the raw materials. Narayan Devi is hopeful that her small home enterprise will not be shuttered, and consumers will continue to love the traditional Nepali sweet.

As a multi-faceted entrepreneur, along with her shop and sweet making enterprise, Narayan Devi is an experienced carpet weaver. She learned this craft as a kid working during the school holidays, and occasionally takes on weaving projects for extra income.

Abhinab Basnyat is currently serving as a  Kiva Fellow in Nepal with BPW-Patan. To learn more about BPW-Patan go to their Field Partner Page on the Kiva website. Check out the BPW Patan Lending Team and consider making a loan to a woman entrepreneur from Nepal.

18 November 2011 at 08:00 1 comment

Visiting an HIV-Clinic in Guayaquil (Part II)

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

One of the great joys and privileges of being a Kiva Fellow is to go along with loan officers when they are meeting Kiva borrowers and new clients. One of my most memorable outings was a visit of an HIV-clinic in a public hospital in Ecuador´s largest city Guayaquil. In the first part of this blog post I recounted how I drove with Nahin Alvarado from Banco D-MIRO´s headquarters on Guayaquil´s Isla Trinitaria to the HIV-clinic at Hospital Abel Gilbert. Nahin is the bank´s loan officer specializing in HIV-positive and/or disabled clients who have the right to receive a discount micro-loan. And Banco D-MIRO is the only micro-institution in all Ecuador to provide financial products especially for these two long-excluded client groups.

Nahin is talking to a patient outside of Guayaquil´s HIV clinic

While Nahin is presenting the bank´s special loan products to the patients in the HIV- clinic´s crowded waiting room, Franklin walks towards me. A strong man in his forties, Franklin is the leader and community organizer of FUSAD (Frente Unido por la Salud y los Derechos – in English: United Front for Health and Rights), a self-help and support group for HIV-positive people, based at the hospital and well known for the professional education courses they provide to their members.

Continue Reading 15 November 2011 at 12:00 4 comments

Study Now, Pay Now: Funding Higher Education in the Philippines

by: Jill Hall, KF16, Philippines

The higher education loan was an exciting idea because it had the potential to provide access to financial backing to those who wanted to pursue further education but were often limited by the lack of availability of funding in their country. The higher education loans hold much potential but it also introduces a whole other set of potentially troubling issues.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Maricar Santiago, CCT with the Visions of Hope division, to discuss the the details of the “Study Now, Pay Now” education loan product.

Continue Reading 12 November 2011 at 18:08 5 comments

Team Kiva: World Police?

Lauren Barra, KF16 Kenya/Tanzania

Last month I had the privilege of attending the African Microfinance Pricing Transparency Leadership Forum in Nairobi. Hosted by MicroFinance Transparency, the conference gathered policymakers and regulators to exchange ideas about client protection and pricing disclosure in microfinance. Although their views varied greatly, these policymakers and consumer advocates could all agree on one point. Regulators should not be fully responsible for promoting transparency – donors and investors must also play an active role.

With $255MM disbursed to over 600,000 borrowers, Kiva is one of the largest microfinance donors in the world. So what should Kiva’s role be in promoting a healthy, transparent microfinance industry? In this blog post, I examine two critical questions:

1.) Does Kiva have a responsibility to promote microfinance transparency?
2.) What must Kiva do to meet this responsibility?

Continue Reading 11 November 2011 at 08:02 4 comments

Visiting an HIV-Clinic in Guayaquil (Part I)

By Emmanuel M. von Arx, KF16, Ecuador

“Don’t be scared to shake the hand of a client with HIV or to drink out of his glass. You cannot get infected that way.” This was the message that Nahin Alvarado repeated over and over during a training session in September with a group of twelve new and somewhat incredulous loan officers of Banco D-MIRO, when I first met him. A loan officer himself, Nahin has been with Banco D-MIRO for over two years, focusing on two very special client groups who – not just in Ecuador – have long suffered from discrimination and lack of access to financial services: micro-entrepreneurs who are HIV-positive or disabled. The moment I heard Nahin so forcefully speak up on behalf of HIV-positive clients, I knew that I wanted to spend a day with him in the field.

Continue Reading 2 November 2011 at 08:00 3 comments

The Second Bottom Line and BRAC Uganda’s Gold

by Andrew Huelsenbeck, K16 Kiva Fellow, BRAC Uganda

The Second Bottom Line

One thing that’s gotten very popular with microfinance institutions (MFIs) lately is measuring success based on what is called a double bottom line. For a long time, the only bottom line for many MFIs was financials, but industry experts began to realize that looking good on paper did not amount to having any real social impact. This is why some MFIs have begun to use a second bottom line – social performance – as an additional metric for success.

What is social performance exactly? It is how an MFI is translating its core mission into practice. The success of this can be gauged in basically two ways: (1) by examining the actual impact of services on clients and (2) by examining the systems an MFI is using to optimize its impact on clients.

Among MFIs, a very common means of measuring the social impact of services is the Grameen Foundation’s Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI). The way the PPI works is by measuring the poverty levels of groups and individuals based on certain country-specific criteria like access to water, medicine, shelter etc. By examining changes in the PPI over time, MFIs are able to better determine their clients’ needs, which programs are most effective, how quickly clients leave poverty, and what helps them to move out of poverty faster.

The other main way of assessing social performance focuses less on the actual impact of services and more on MFIs’ management of the systems that optimize impact. This kind of management is commonly called social performance management (SPM). The success of SPM is based on an MFI’s ability to do mainly three things: (1) set clear social objectives, (2) monitor the progress towards achieving those objectives, and (3) use the insights from monitoring to improve overall performance and impact.

One of the major organizations responsible for establishing assessments and best practice guidelines relating to how MFIs achieve these three things is called the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF). The SPTF was birthed in 2005 when the CGAP, the Argidius Foundation and the Ford Foundation brought together leaders from various social performance initiatives in the microfinance industry to come to a consensus on a common social performance framework and an action plan to implement it. The SPTF has worked very closely with CERISE (the creator of the social performance assessment tool Kiva uses for its partners), and has recently been doing a lot of work in Uganda.

BRAC Uganda’s Gold SPM Award

Many Ugandan MFIs are part of a larger organization called the Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda (AMFIU). In the past year or so, AMFIU has begun to seriously encourage social performance management among its constituents. With the guidance of the SPTF and with funding from the Ford Foundation, the organization has held training sessions, published instructional guides, and not too long ago, held its first ever Social Performance Management Awards here in Kampala.

The event was huge. All of the big players were there: PRIDE, Opportunity, Finance Trust, Habitat for Humanity, EMESCO and more. The Ugandan Commissioner of Microfinance and the president of AMFIU were also in attendance and helped to present the awards to the MFIs that have really excelled in SPM. Many bronzes and silvers were handed out, but BRAC Uganda, the main MFI I am working with, took home the only gold.

BRAC Uganda Social Performance Gold

Mr. Ariful Islam, the (former) Country Representative of BRAC Uganda, displays BRAC's Gold SPM Award

BRAC Uganda is an incredible organization. In just six years, with the help of the MasterCard Foundation, Kiva, Unicef and other major partners, BRAC has become a microfinance titan in Uganda. It currently has over 1,800 employees working at 114 branches, has dispersed more than $71 million in loans, and has touched the lives of nearly 2 million of Uganda’s poor.

What’s more impressive, though, is BRAC’s dedication to the second bottom line. Its mission is clear and simple: to alleviate poverty by empowering the poor to bring about change in their own lives. BRAC has achieved this not only by bringing financial services to some of the remotest regions in Uganda, but also by starting and scaling up health, agriculture, education and adolescent empowerment programs.

Many systems at BRAC are set up to ensure that clients are actually benefiting from these programs. More than half of the time, program managers are out in the field interacting with clients; the 15-member Monitoring Department continually evaluates programs to prevent mismanagement and misappropriation of funds; and BRAC Uganda’s unique Research and Evaluation Unit regularly conducts studies on the relevance and effectiveness of BRAC’s operations.

The research unit at BRAC Uganda is also currently working with AMFIU and the Grameen Foundation to promote the use of the PPI among other major MFIs in Uganda. The poverty index (or scorecard) was originally developed by a lead BRAC International researcher using national household survey data in Uganda. The Grameen Foundation adopted the idea, and worked with BRAC to update the index using newer data from many different countries. Now, the two organizations are using the PPI to improve social performance in Uganda and all over the world.

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

28 October 2011 at 00:45 6 comments

Downsizing Development: How a Soccer Ball Could Change the World

Lauren Barra, KF16 Kenya

As several of my colleagues have outlined here, here and here the power of simplicity is particularly evident in microfinance. These borrowers’ success makes me wonder – how else can “thinking small” translate to big changes in international development?

A few weeks ago I got my answer. My roommate Amy emailed with exciting news – “I got the internship!!” After weeks of cover letters, interviews, and language proficiency tests, Amy secured a marketing internship with sOccket, an innovative new social business focused on bringing renewable energy to the developing world. As one reporter noted,

Every great once in a while, you come across something that makes you slap your head and say, “That’s…just…brilliant.”

Continue Reading 26 October 2011 at 22:00 3 comments

Pride & Poverty: A Photo Essay of Kiva Borrowers in Georgia

Ask any Kiva Fellow what the best part of their job is, and invariably you will hear, “Meeting Kiva Borrowers and hearing their stories.” It’s an incredible honor to be invited into borrowers homes and businesses to witness firsthand how a Kiva loan has helped to change and improve their lives. Spend a little time getting to know a borrower and you’ll be struck by two things- first, how amazingly hard they work and second, how proud they are to share the progress or product a Kiva loan has helped them to develop.

Continue Reading 26 October 2011 at 05:54 13 comments

The Donut Hole Conundrum + Mamoud’s Story

By Tejal Desai, KF16, Sierra Leone

Earlier this year, a Kiva fellow in KF14, David McNeill, wrote about his interaction with a Sierra Leonean taxi driver, and addressed a hot issue in microfinance: the financial donut hole. The driver asked David what type of work he was doing in Sierra Leone, and after David mentioned he was involved with microcredit, the driver expressed, “Ah, that is for women.” In his post, David explains how the driver was mostly right: why the microfinance industry concentrates on lending mostly to women, although there are still a small percentage of men who are eligible to receive loans. He continues to explain that the microfinance industry generally targets the poorest of the poor, this “bottom of the pyramid,” but leaves out those who fall in between: the people that are financially overqualified for microcredit, but too poor to receive a bank loan — resulting in the donut hole conundrum. His post makes it clear that microfinance has a long way to go until it can reach all levels of poverty. During my fellowship at BRAC Sierra Leone, however, I have learned about a particular product that is proving to be a small but effective means to fill that rather large donut hole: the small enterprise loan.

Continue Reading 24 October 2011 at 13:00 3 comments

Going the Distance: Expanding the Reach of Microfinance in Rwanda

By Whitney Webb, KF16, Rwanda

One of the biggest challenges of providing access to financial services to those living in poverty is the actual logistics of expanding the services into some of the most remote areas of the world. 92% of Rwandans live in rural areas. During my first field visit, I visited a small village near the border of Tanzania. After meeting several first time borrowers and hearing about their challenges and strong hopes for the future, we drove out onto the unpredictable mud roads.

Continue Reading 24 October 2011 at 08:49 6 comments

Girlie’s Peanut Butter: Borrower Verification in the Philippines

By: Jill Hall, Manila,Philippines

As I stepped out in the oppressive humidity of a Manila morning, my spirit was excited and ready to leave the protection of CCT head office’s wonderful air conditioning because this was the day I got to do another borrower verification.This day’s journey is particularly exciting because the reward at the end of the two-hour bus side in Metro Manila traffic, is Caloocan City, a place where nature begins to meet houses and instead of high rises and smog you plunge in to lush green hills and palm trees. It is there that I will find the lady that makes peanut butter.

Continue Reading 23 October 2011 at 21:54 6 comments

High-tops in The Commercial Jungle: The Life of a Shoe Salesman

by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

Marcial Salvador selling high-tops

Mercado Oriental spans 60 city blocks and is the largest in Central America. The market is a jungle of stalls, pushcarts, alleyways and low hanging clothes, fruits, and shoes. It’s a full sensory experience that is almost numbing in its frenetic energy. Flies on meats next to sexy new hair products, car parts and phone calls from the same vendor, sweet smells of fresh baked bread and shoe polish, this is where Marcial Salvador sells shoes.

Marcial Salvador has been working in this market in varying capacities for the last 45 years. He is a model borrower at AFODENIC and is on his 4rth Kiva Loan! (more…)

12 October 2011 at 16:21 4 comments

Stuff Kiva Fellows Like

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 alpaca fur to FSSs to ziplock bags, these are the things we like and thrive on.

#1 Being the first foreign person that somebody has ever seen in their life

Dave Weber, KF16, CambodiaSDC18999

Few life experiences will measure up to the one where a Kiva Fellow is   told that he or she is ‘the first foreigner that somebody has ever seen  in their life’ (TFFPTSHESITL).  This experience often comes  with having ones hair and skin touched, which people in our home countries don’t find nearly as interesting.  KFs know that their image will forever be bored into the mind of the Latino/African/Asian/MidEastern borrower since we assume they ‘never forget their first one.’
A Kiva Fellow will react to being TFFPTSHESITL in several ways.  They will utilize social media  to get the word out to 500 people in their friend list and possibly even engage the Stories from the Field blog to get the message out to potentially hundreds of thousands.  It will also be the first story they tell supporters and people back home.  Kiva Fellows will also often use the phrase, “I’m pretty sure I was the first foreign person to ever go there” when referring to locations, even if they’re talking about Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat or the running of the bulls or the Washington Monument.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to spend my holiday evening at a Cambodian air conditioned movie theater which I’m certain no foreign person has been to before and I will be TFFPTSHESITL to at least half of the moviegoers there to engage in the revelry entitled Cowboys vs. Aliens.   (more…)

7 October 2011 at 15:11 20 comments

Lean on Me: The Impact of Responsive Loans in Coastal Kenya

Lauren Barra, KF16, Kenya

“A startling new statistic from the World Health Organization,” the BBC announcer sounded from my taxi’s radio. “There are only two registered medical professionals for every 1,000 Kenyans…” As I drove through the bustling, overcrowded streets of downtown Mombasa, I took a deep breath and was reminded once again – my work here is not going to be easy.

The BBC announcer continued to explain that this data is even more sobering for poor, uninsured Kenyans who rely on government-funded hospitals. A recent economic survey showed that only 19 public health officials and 18 doctors are available per 100,000 Kenyans. Public doctors are often overwhelmed with patients and it’s not uncommon for Kenyans to pass away waiting to receive essential care. Insured patients have the option to go to a private facility and have a much better chance of receiving quality care. Few Kenyans in this region can afford traditional health insurance plans and families suffer devastating setbacks if one member falls seriously ill.

Continue Reading 28 September 2011 at 13:44 6 comments

What are Chances of Meeting a Kiva Borrower in Guayaquil?

By Emmanuel M. von Arx, KF 16, Ecuador

Taxi drivers were not in the forefront of my mind when I was walking out of Guayaquil´s international airport into the hot and humid air of this Ecuadorian port city. I had just been welcomed by Rubi Chaca who thankfully was driving me to my hotel. Rubi is the expert in charge of managing the loans made by Kiva lenders at Kiva´s partner organization Banco D-MIRO.
Only minutes before, as my plane was approaching Guayaquil, I had been able to grasp the enormity of this sprawling city. As I was soon to learn, Guayaquil represents a condensed microcosm of the whole country, with all its regions, peoples, and customs being represented. It is a place of extreme contradictions and contrasts…

Continue Reading 14 September 2011 at 16:00 8 comments

The Kiva Parachute: Landing in Rwanda

By Whitney Webb, KF16, Rwanda

Things became real when I stepped out of my NYC apartment for the last time and hailed a cab to the airport. It was one thing to say (repeatedly) “I’m moving to Rwanda to do a fellowship in microfinance. I’m so excited. And a little nervous.” It’s quite another to pack up your bags and actually board a plane to Rwanda, or Indonesia, or Paraguay, etc… I’m guessing more than one of us Kiva fellows had the inevitable panic attack prior to and during departure.

Continue Reading 14 September 2011 at 02:53 8 comments

The Velvet Season

“You are lucky,” my taxi driver tells me. “You have arrived in the best time in Georgia!”

After two weeks here in Tbilisi, I have to agree. September to November brings The Velvet Season; when the sun is no longer scorching hot, but still warm enough to enjoy swimming, local parks and outdoor cafes without the huge summer crowds. Georgia is blessed with abundant crops of the season; apples, berries, peaches, plums, tomatoes, and of course, grapes. Did you know that Georgia claims to be the oldest wine producing region in the world? With over 500 indigenous grape varieties, wine and wine making are a huge part of Georgia’s unique culture.

Ready for the harvest!

Peak of perfection

Churchkhela- almonds and hazelnuts hand-dipped in grape must. Yum!

Chilled watermelon

Tbilisi's sulfur baths and garden

Check out Kevin Mihelic, KF12′s excellent post on Georgia’s recent economic and political struggles. The government has been working hard to attract foreign investment and progress is evident in the construction of modern buildings and upgraded services all over Tbilisi, however around 30% of all Georgian’s are living below the poverty line and much of the agriculture in Georgia is limited to subsistence farming. With approximately 55% of Georgia’s labor force working in agriculture, I was happy to learn that Kiva’s lending partner Credo has some innovative products for rural borrowers, including crop insurance loans at a ZERO percent interest rate.

A farm house near the Russian border

Georgia has yet a long way to go to stabilize its economy, but even in the aftermath of the 2008 conflict with Russia and the global financial crisis, conditions in Georgia are slowly improving. Corruption is a thing of the past. Clean water systems and electricity (at least in the capital city of Tbilisi) have been modernized. My taxi driver friend was right- I am lucky to be here at this time. Come November, the icy winter winds may blow, but I hope The Velvet Season, and a time of warm growth, continues in Georgia for a long time to come.
Fishing on the Mtkvari river

Fishing on the Mtkvari river

DJ Forza is a Kiva Fellow working with Credo in Tbilisi, Georgia. To learn more, please visit Credo’s partner page, join the Georgia lending team, and keep an eye out for Georgian loans on

12 September 2011 at 08:51 19 comments

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