Posts tagged ‘Kiva Fellow’
Marion Walls | KF19 | Tanzania
I’m on a quest to follow a Kiva loan from lender to borrower! How often have I dreamed of this whilst browsing my loans on a frosty winter weekend in Canada? Now I have an ideal opportunity to do so as the Kiva Fellow in Tanzania, so I’ll take you along for the ride!
My directions are set when a friend emails from Calgary: “I donated to the Jaguar Group. They’re asking for a loan in support of their beauty salon. I chose that one in honor of you – I figure you might want a haircut or a color given you are there for months!” Too true; I’ve been in Tanzania since September and this Kiva fellowship has been rich and rewarding, but also tough, so I’m looking a little ragged… And salons here offer beautifully intricate braids – why not give them a try?
I love the idea of making the personal connection between a Kiva lender in my hometown of Calgary, and a Kiva borrower here in Dar es Salaam! I had the dubious distinction in KF19 Fellows’ class of traveling furthest to my placement, so this will be an opportunity to reel in some of that distance. And what fun to report back to my friend on how his loan is working out here on the ground! I immediately start making arrangements to meet Juliet, the featured borrower of Jaguar Group…
Lender’s city; borrower’s city
You may already be familiar with Calgary – prosperous modern city buoyed by oil wealth; 5th largest metropolitan center in Canada; enviable location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains; renowned for its volunteer spirit; host city of the ’88 Winter Olympics (remember The Jamaican Bobsleigh Team?); 9th largest lender city on Kiva in 2011 (way to go Calgary)! In short: it’s a privileged city with a lot of heart!
What can I tell you about Dar es Salaam? The name conjures up exotic images of centuries old sea-trade, sultry summer evenings, and short ferry rides to magical Zanzibar island!
But the reality of daily life is far from tropical paradise for most of Dar’s 3 – 4 million inhabitants; believe me, this is one grindingly hard city in which to eke out a living… Still, people keep coming, lured by hopes of a better economic future than they face in their hometowns or villages. Dar is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It’s a statistic with unenviable consequences: Dar’s infrastructure is clearly not keeping pace with the burgeoning population. Unrelenting heat and humidity are exacerbated by almost daily power cuts that mean no fans or air conditioning (in the words of my office-mate: “We are practicing for the fires of heaven!”), and no reliable refrigeration for foodstuff (where do maggots come from anyway?)
The dala-dala (bus) system is extensive and was genuinely well designed at inception – but now it’s inadequate and the overcrowding is epic! Likewise, unremitting traffic on overwhelmed roadways morphs the “5 p.m. rush hour” into the “2 – 8 p.m. standstill”. (Can traffic officers judge precisely when 64 passengers crammed in a sweltering dala with seating for 32 will finally reach breaking point? Only then do they signal us through the intersection!) Admittedly construction is underway to address transportation issues, but I regret the almost imperceptible progress in the 5 months I’ve been here.
Yet, in the face of wretched infrastructure challenges and the fact that formal employment is not keeping pace with population pressures either, the people of Dar find ways to get by – they have to. So the informal economy is bustling and every hot and dusty road is lined with shops and stalls; every opportune space is claimed. (Note to self: “That’s why Kiva loans to entrepreneurs are so relevant in Dar!”)
And if half of all Tanzanians are getting by on $2 per day per Kiva’s country statistics, it’s surely not from want of trying: it’s common to work long hours here in Dar.
No two ways about it – it’s a hardscrabble life here. But there’s a side to this city that defies all expectations: people in Dar (as in all Tanzania, in fact) are extraordinarily friendly, and helpful, and tolerant! I know it sounds cliched, but this is truly friendliness, and willingness to help, and tolerance, on a scale I’ve seldom encountered in my travels on any continent. It occurs to me this is the real key to living in Dar!
The expedition across town
Of course you realize Kiva borrowers don’t work in downtown office towers, but still you might be surprised by the widespread locations of their businesses (such as Juliet’s salon). Greater Dar es Salaam area is extensive, and many Kiva borrowers live and work on the outer fringes – perhaps 50 km away from my base at the main branch of Kiva’s partner MFI, Tujijenge Tanzania.
I had no concept of the stamina it would require before I started visiting borrowers last September! My mind boggles when I consider that loan officers from Tujijenge routinely travel across Dar to attend borrower group meetings every week… (The numerous challenges MFIs such as Tujijenge face in delivering services here in Dar are daunting. That’s why I admire MFIs for working here - where the need for microfinance is great, where it can make a significant impact on the lives of borrowers, but where it is not easy.) The loan officers are all busy as bees so I enlist Rita, the star Kiva Coordinator at Tujijenge, to join me on this visit to Juliet. We set off together, as always.
I use my favorite strategy: Start early in the morning. Take a series of “city-bus” dalas to the furthest point at which bajajis (auto rickshaws, named for the pricipal company that makes them) are available. Cover the final stretch to the borrower by bajaji, because the alternative of switching first to a “mini-bus” dala then risking life and limb on a piki-piki (motorbike taxi) is no fun at all. Persuade the bajaji driver to wait whilst we visit the borrower. Then do the trip in reverse. And hope to get home before dark…
(Rita scolds me for excessive expenditure on bajajis, but I can’t help it: I love everything about them! Bajaji drivers are fearless; they are consummate alternate-route-finders in the face of traffic jams; they are willing to tackle any road. Bajajis can negotiate all terrains successfully, or at least are light enough for this Kiva Fellow to push out of the sand when stuck… The open-air design provides sweet relief from the heat (even if the air I’m breathing is laden with diesel fumes, and bugs impale themselves on my camera lens), and I can choose how many of us are on board. I bet you’d take a bajaji too, if you had the chance!)
On today’s trip to see Juliet, a second bajaji driver dashes up just as we finish negotiating our fare with the first. “Mama,” he calls to Rita, “you gave me my loan at Tujijenge!” It means he has a Kiva loan! “Oh, I wish we could go with you then,” Rita responds. “It’s alright, you can go with him – he’s my friend,” says the Kiva guy, with characteristic Tanzanian friendliness. (What a great coincidence! I told you I love bajajis!)
Meeting the borrower
Turns out my meeting with Juliet is not happening after all… Instead of Juliet, Prisca is waiting for me at the roadside. Prisca is Chairman of Jaguar Group, and she tells me Juliet has bowed out today. Of course I’m disappointed, but I try to imagine myself in Juliet’s position as a borrower. Is she simply too shy? Battling a family or business crisis she’d rather not discuss? Scared because she’s behind on a repayment (even though she’s paid off 5 previous Tujijenge loans successfully)? Unwilling to have nosy neighbors learn from my obvious presence that she has a loan (out of financial privacy concerns, or because they may press for a share of the cash)? Unwilling to have her husband learn she has a loan (and thus jeopardize her personal financial stability)? Or is it something else entirely? I don’t know, but I’d far rather Juliet refuses than indulges me at her own expense – my visit is purely whimsical and not business related. It’s an apt reminder that a borrower’s loan is a significant business contract that is not undertaken lightly; it must be managed and paid back in the context of real-life complexities.
Meeting the borrower (Take 2)
Prisca saves the day by inviting me back to her store. I’m very happy to accept because, after all, the Kiva loan covers Jaguar Group, not Juliet alone. (Group loans are a mainstay of microfinance. You can read about their many benefits in Dar in my earlier Kiva post: Group Loans – Filling a Particular Niche.) Prisca hops aboard our bajaji and we’re off on a roller-coaster ride!
Prisca owns an impressively well-maintained store selling sodas (pop) and beer. There’s a shady seating area too, so Rita, the Bajaji driver, Prisca, and I settle down to enjoy a cold soda (bonus – Prisca has a fridge!) and a chat. I show Prisca her Jaguar Group’s loan on Kiva, and she breaks into a wide smile as she sees herself in the photo! She quickly points out Juliet, as well as Judith who was featured in Jaguar’s previous Kiva loan. She’s somewhat incredulous when I point out my friend from Calgary in the Lender section…
I ask Prisca about herself. She’s married, has a young son and daughter, and has always lived in this area of Dar. Her store used to stock a wide variety of goods but in 2011 thieves broke in and stole pretty much everything, including the scale for weighing goods like rice and dried beans. It was a cruel setback. That’s when Prisca joined Jaguar Group and started taking loans from Tujijenge to try to get back on her feet. Yes, the series of loans have helped restore her business – injections of cash every few months are invaluable in buying bulk stock at cheaper prices, and purchasing items like the fridge to draw customers. Some of the extra profit that is generated helps with household expenses (think school fees) too. But there’s still a way to go… That’s why Prisca has stayed with Jaguar Group, and recently become group Chairman.
Closing the circle
I’ve done what I’ve always dreamed of doing: followed a Kiva loan from lender to borrower! Now I know the people on both sides of the contract, and I’m totally delighted.
I report back to Calgary: “The bajaji ride was one of the best yet! The rest of things didn’t quite go to plan, but still they ended well. I met Prisca, not Juliet. I got a soda, not braids… Prisca was amazed to see you! Her business is coming along, and she says the loan is helping. Here’s the postcard I made you – it was a brilliant day, thank you! M.”
Click here to lend to a Kiva borrower in Dar es Salaam. (Please check back at the start of next month if all Tujijenge Tanzanian loans are currently funded!)
See more of the daily sights I’ve enjoyed in and around Dar in The Illustrated Guide to Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner! (Tanzania Edition). Or see the complete antithesis in On the Road Less Travelled: Kagera Region in Tanzania.
Here is a peek into my daily routine as a Kiva Fellow in Sololá, Guatemala. My schedule usually goes something like this…
8:00AM – Wake-Up
8:15AM – Emails, Updates and Writing for my travel blog
8:45AM – Arrive at ADICLA Office in Sololá, Guatemala
9:00AM – Plan our day of borrower visits, Kiva training and other tasks
10:00AM – Leave office
10:20AM – Morning snack at the central market in Sololá
10:40AM – Begin motorcycle ride into the countryside to visit borrowers
11:30AM – Arrive at first borrower’s home to gather information, take photos and get a participation signature (in this video we filmed a Kiva”Thank You” piece)
12:15PM – Arrive at second borrower’s home (in this video the borrower didn’t arrive, which is a regular occurrence when there are crops to be harvested)
1:30PM – Lunch at one of my favorite spots just outside the town of San Andres. Churrasco, chorizo, black beans, tomato sauce, cheese and a Coca Cola!
2:30PM – Wait at the San Andres ADICLA Office for a borrower group to arrive. Juan Carlos and I exchanged language lessons (Kakchiquel and English).
3:00PM – Group Borrower Meeting
3:45PM – Ride back to Sololá
5:10PM – Upload new borrower profiles
7:00PM – Leave office for the night, change and snack
7:30PM – Get it right. Get it tight.
8:15PM – Grocery shopping
8:45PM – Shower and Dinner
9:30PM – Catch up on emails, writing, Kiva Fellow tasks and travel blog work
That’s my day as a Kiva Fellow!
Living in the heart of the Mayan Empire has given me the opportunity to get to the bottom of all the “End of the World” rumors that I’m sure you’ve all heard about by now.
It has been said that the Mayans predicted the world’s demise to be scheduled for December 21, 2012, and just like any international apocalypse talk, marketing schemes and business ploys followed soon after.
I wanted to see if I should start maxing out the credit cards or not, so I went to the Mayan Ruins of Tikal in Peten, Guatemala to ask an expert.
We had a great tour guide at the ruins named Donnie “Speedy” Gonzales, and he broke down the truth behind all the “End of the World” hype.
Here’s what he said…
He said that the Mayans did not predict the end of the world, just the end of an era. This era is a period of 400 years on the Mayan Calendar called a Baktun, and we are completing the 13th Baktun (Not the 14th as it says in the video) this December 21, 2012.
He also said the Mayans predicted a worldly transformation on this date, where the earth and its inhabitants may undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation, and will “be more conscious of their neighborhood.” In other words, a focus on the greater good!
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this magnetic shift! Hopefully that means a great influx of lenders to Kiva!
Marion Walls | KF19 | Tanzania
If you prefer the road less traveled, then I have just the place for you: the Kagera region of Tanzania!
You may not have heard of Kagera – even though it’s exceptionally beautiful, and the people here are especially friendly – as it’s not part of the Tanzanian tourist circuit. And that’s precisely what makes it ideal for those of us who prefer to explore places off the beaten track! Kagera is tucked away on the western side of Lake Victoria. The region is bordered by Uganda to the north, and Rwanda and Burundi to the west, and it takes a 20+ hour bus ride (or two flights) to get here from Dar es Salaam. I’ve come here in my capacity as a Fellow to visit Kiva borrower Gration and his project partner Daeni in the town of Muleba, as well as Andy in the town of Ngara. They both obtained Kiva loans earlier this year to purchase solar power products from Kiva’s partner, Barefoot Power. The time I’ve spent with them and their Wata na Nuru (Light for the People) teams, resellers, and solar clients has been truly remarkable. You see, I am here to work!
I’ve long been fascinated by solar power, so I’m thrilled by the opportunity this Kiva fellowship has afforded to see firsthand the impacts and challenges of providing solar lighting in rural Tanzania. And I’m looking forward to sharing these Barefoot Power updates with you when I get back to an area with sufficient internet speed to upload the blogs… Meanwhile, here’s a photo journal of my favorite (non-work) experiences in Kagera over the past two weeks:
1. The dawn chorus of songbirds in a beautiful garden in Bukoba. The birdlife is prolific here; the garden in this video reminds me of the home where I grew up in Zimbabwe; and Bukoba (Tanzania’s second-largest port on Lake Victoria) is a breath of fresh air after my last nine hot and sweaty weeks in Dar es Salaam. What an uplifting way to start the day!
2. Expansive views of Lake Victoria. It’s called Lweru (The Big White) by the Haya people of this area, and as soon as I saw the lake I knew why. This is an area of vast panoramas and glorious open skies! The shoreline of the lake is dotted with granite outcrops, and the surrounding landscape is lush with green grass (good grazing for the heavy-horned cattle in this video!) and trees, thanks to plentiful rainfall and the rich red soil.
3. A frenzy of activity as 450 donated bikes – recently arrived in a container from Switzerland – are reassembled and prepped for sale. Daeni is involved at this bicycle center in remote Nshamba, where youngsters learn the skills of a bicycle fundi (expert). I’m delighted to see the Tanzanian side of this project, because I’m familiar with the donor side of a similar project in my hometown in Canada.
4. Kagera isn’t called the banana capital of Tanzania for nothing… Banana plants grow everywhere! Matoke (plantains, or cooking bananas) are the staple food here, usually eaten with maharage (beans). The bananas we eat start growing from tiny yellow flowers – initially the size of your thumb nail – hidden under the dark reddish bracts of a large inflorescence known as the banana heart.
5. My hilarious bus ride from Muleba to Ngara! It rains. The bus leaks. I am drenched from head to foot! I balance my little daypack on my knee as water pours down upon me for several hours, relieved that my laptop and camera – the tools of my trade these days – are sealed in a waterproof bag. I’m sorry when the kid sitting snugly next to me gets off at his stop; I was grateful for his warmth… And just for the record: I’m beginning to think a ticket agents’ assessment that “it will take 3 hours” is an optimistic way of saying “a long time, maybe even 6 hours”!
6. Wandering for hours along a ridge at Murgwanza that overlooks the Tanzanian border with Rwanda. I’m drawn onward by the tantalizing views from the next rocky outcrop, and the possibility of finding another flame lily swaying in the breeze. The sounds of distant voices, wood chopping, and the occasional cock-crow drift up to me from the valley below, and mingle with the low buzz of insects and melodious bursts of birdsong. The African bush is so alive! Goat herders on the next hillside call mzungu! (the friendly Kiswahili term for foreigner) to catch my attention, and wave. Could I be any happier?
7. The harmonious singing voices of a church congregation in Murgwanza stop me in my tracks as I’m passing by. (The picture quality in this video is poor, so just close your eyes and listen, and you’ll hear birds trilling joyfully too!)
8. A vibrant market operates under cover of huge white UNHCR tents that have been repurposed in downtown Ngara. The tents are remnants of the refugee crisis in Kagera that was caused by the Rwanda genocide in 1994. It’s impossible for me to reconcile the idea of such horror with the normal daily life and tranquility I see around me now.
9. My 9-hour bus ride through Karagwe region. Since there are no direct buses for the next 3 days, I’m advised to take a bus from Ngara to Karagwe (it’ll take 3 hours!), from where I can get onward transport to Bukoba. I arrive at the bus stand before dawn to get a window seat. The bus fills rapidly (and I do mean fills…), and we set off close to schedule but lose time as we inch our way through the mist and up the steep hills. The man wedged in next to me buys water at our first stop and downs more pills than I’ve ever seen in one dose; I wonder sadly if he’s one of the many people here infected with HIV/AIDS. (I’ve visited a sewing class at one organization that cares for 1800 orphans, and met a worker from another that cares for 3700. The numbers overwhelm me.)
Then the bus halts at a barrier and a man with an automatic rifle, (I recognize it as an AK47; I grew up during the war in Zimbabwe), climbs in next to the driver. My neighbor explains this is our escort, but I’m a bit disconcerted and text a message to Andy in Ngara in case this all ends badly… He replies that an armed escort on this route is normal… I’m still feeling pensive when suddenly there’s great excitement on the bus: Twiga, twiga! Someone’s seen giraffe, and we all scan the bush eagerly for a glimpse! I snap a couple of photos, and pass my camera around. My fellow passengers laugh happily at our good fortune, and my mood lightens! I can face the rest of this 9-hour bus journey with equanimity now.
10. Young girls are delighted by their new dresses for Christmas! I think the dressmaker is equally pleased. Entrepreneurship is visible everywhere I go – this woman set up shop in front of her house, in the midst of a banana plantation. And she’s doing a roaring trade as the festive season approaches!
And finally: The unlikely Kiva connection. Yesterday I chatted with a charming woman at Bukoba airport as we waited in vain for our flight – the runway too muddy for the incoming plane to land. We met again today, and I showed my new friend the Tanzanian content on Kiva website. Imagine my surprise and delight when we scrolled through the last Update I posted about Tanzania, and she exclaimed “I know her! That woman is an excellent baker!” Who’d have thought there would be a connection way out here in Kagera? It’s a small world, thanks to Kiva!
Barefoot Power loans in Tanzania also went to Martin in Dodoma, and Clive in Moshi. That’s were my travels as a Kiva Fellow take me next! No Barefoot Power loans in Tanzania are currently fundraising on Kiva, but each month you can find loans posted by Tujijenge Tanzania.
By Eileen Flannigan | KF19 | India
Eileen and Irene are both fellows in India. Eileen is living in Imphal, Manipur and Irene is in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. While in conversations with one another, we have been struck by how different the cities are. We’ve compiled these observations to share with you our experiences of the rich and diverse culture of India. Eileen’s profiled in Part 2 below, while Irene is featured in Part 1.
Top 3 things that you notice while roaming your neighborhood?
To some degree, Imphal looks like most Indian cities; colorful clothes laid out on riverbeds, vibrant vegetable vendors, cows grazing in busy streets, sidewalk barbers and active “hotels” (i.e. shops) of meat, rice, and tea. However, on closer investigation, my curiosity led me to these:
- Rickshaw drivers in disguise. I was perplexed why most of the rickshaw drivers were covered from head-to-toe with only eyes showing, even on very hot days. I learned that these educated young men were forced to take this job because of the high unemployment in this region. It’s considered an act of shame for themselves and their families if their identity was known.
- Men with large guns. Sadly, this has been a hotbed for militancy for decades. At any given moment, I’ll see men in combat uniforms jammed into the back of a vehicle or a crew taking a break at a paan shop or a tank slowly cruising down the street with the watchman’s bust out the top.
- Kids in uniform. I live right across the street from a primary school and my favorite morning ritual is to watch them all gather with the last bit of wild exuberance before the subdued day ahead. Children arrive scrunched with siblings on bikes, rickshaws, or father’s shoulders. Sisters eagerly tie younger one’s bows, friends connected by sweet hand holding and boys arm and arm while imitating their favorite cricket bowler.
When you want the “comforts of home” experience, what do you do?
I live with a family that has two young boys, so I’ve taught them some American card games like Go Fish, Slap Jack and Crazy Eights. On chilly nights we obsessively play with gusto, which always makes me happily nostalgic.
Although, when I’m really longing for home, I head to the best hotel in town to have a cappuccino and baked yogurt, which is a newly delicious discovery that is a cross between a crème brûlée, and American style yogurt. Although I appreciate the ritual and social nuances of chai time, there’s nothing like the comforts of a cup of coffee or two, to turn my day around. Added bonus is this cafe plays the most wonderfully bad acoustic remakes of American songs. Depending on my mood, I am either really happy or deeply embarrassed that I now know all the lyrics to Rhinestone Cowboy.
Describe the people and culture in your region.
Manipur is one of the most northeastern states of India, snugly positioned next to Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Almost all states in the northeast have international borders with countries that include Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China which has meant a continuous migration of people with strong ethnic identities. The amalgamation of different tribal nations, indigenous traditions, languages and food has left a dynamic imprint on the Manipuri culture. They have a rich arts heritage, however my favorite pastime is the daily theatre of weaved garments whisking by in the streets, with just the right amount of dramatic flair. Most women don’t wear saris but a long wrap-around skirt that tell a story of the woman, her home tribe and religious lineage through the intricate patterned design, electrified colors and weave techniques.
I love Indian food and its explosion of spices to awaken an exotic, far-away feeling in me. However, one of my biggest surprises has been with my culinary experiences. It’s not your typical Indian fare of masala, cardamom, coriander and the like, with the exclusion of turmeric, spices are used minimally here, if at all. Manipuris smother everything with the king chili (the hottest in the world) and say that “rice is always the main course” with something fermented (fish or bamboo) and possibly dried meat as a side. Thankfully, my host family has been understanding of my western palette and doesn’t try to push the king chili on me, as I think we both know it would end badly.
What type of work is common in this region for Kiva borrowers?
I’ve been awed by the way Kiva borrowers work many different, inter-connected businesses to sustain their livelihoods. There is no main industry to speak of, so the women must find creative ways to bring in little bits of income from many different sources, mostly 4, 5 or even 6 businesses operating at once. The Kiva borrowers, all women, live in remote hill areas with fertile land and weaving skills that start at a very young age and are seeded in deep traditions. They are using these strengths to form business of:
Weaving + Rice Paddy + Garden
All village women will be involved in these three activities. Weaving is done twice daily, at dawn and late night when all the other household chores are completed. Rice harvesting is only once a year and the yield is not only expected to feed the whole family throughout the year but provide a small supplemental income. A majority of families, regardless of income level, have a paddy field that has been pasted down through the generations. In addition, village families will have anything from a kitchen garden to a full farm. In this region, they typically grow potatoes, gooseberries, ginger, turmeric, cabbage, chillies and will use the harvest for family consumption and market sales.
Piggery + Poultry
“Piggeries”, as pig farms are known here, can reap a good profit, especially around festival time when the demand is high. Ladies will spend about 8-9 months feeding their pigs from scraps from their garden and rice paddies. In most cases, a woman who is raising pigs will be raising chickens,too. This is because chickens, like pigs, are a home based business and can be sold within 4-6 weeks, allowing the Kiva borrower profit to live and pay back the loan while waiting for the income from the piggery.
Clothing +Tea + Paan+ Variety Stores
The resale of used clothing has provided a good living for Kiva borrowers here because of the high profit margins with less time and hard labor then other activities. In addition, tea stalls, paan shops and variety shops are heavily littered throughout India, but in rural areas they are still viable means to respond to village needs.
What are the main strengths of your MFI and how have you experienced these in the field?
Kiva’s partner, WSDS-Initiate, has many strengths that contribute to successfully penetrating the remote regions in the northeast. Manipur has several challenges and complexities that make it difficult for financial institutions to operate. Which of course, compound the effects of social, political, and geographic circumstances by widening the disparities in rural populations by financial exclusion. WSDS- Initiate, has a long history of working in this area, not only in a financial role but a social services capacity and understands the ethnic conflicts and nuances needed to work with many different tribal communities. They operate with an inclusive approach that tribal harmony and peace-building is pivotal to the regions long-term growth. Therefore, they work with the three major tribes (Kuki, Naga & Meitei) in remote and sometimes dangerous regions with a needs-based approach to financial inclusion. This includes, not only providing loans, but financial training and savings education. I’ve personally met hundreds of WSDS clients, in several villages and have witnessed how they work to financially include and educate all women, even those that are considered “too high risk”, such as widows, women over 55 years old and those with little collateral.
In addition, I’ve been particularly inspired by how they continue to strive to make a social impact in this region, which isn’t easy. They have partnered with organizations that are using innovative ways of enhancing their client’s livelihood activities by enabling them to get better access to solar power, education, agriculture and forestry projects that benefit the whole community. It’s clear that WSDS’s investment in these villages are holistic with the overarching driving principle of poverty alleviation.
Eileen Flannigan is a Kiva fellow (19th class) serving in Manipur, India with the micro finance organization, WSDS Initiate. Support our Indian partners here, join the Indian lending team, WSDS lending team or get a holiday gift card for someone special!
Marion Walls | KF19 | Tanzania
I’d like to celebrate Thanksgiving with you, the Kiva community! I’d love to cook dinner for us to share but this is the thing: I’m in Tanzania right now. (I’m a Kiva Fellow, serving with Tujijenge and Barefoot Power.) So I’m enlisting your help with getting the food to the table. It’ll be easy! I’ve chosen a familiar Thanksgiving menu:
Turkey with Pan Gravy
Nut Loaf (*vegetarian option)
Coffee or Tea
And just to be certain we end up with the same meal as each other, I’ve provided step-by-step instructions (with full-color illustrations from Tanzania!) for you to follow. You can’t go wrong… So let’s get cooking!
2. Cook the Bird till the juices run clear, and the skin is nicely browned. (Turkeys proved elusive – here’s rooster from Bagamoyo instead…)
3. Pick, peel, and roast nuts for the nut loaf. Cashews are abundant here, but feel free to use any nuts growing locally near you.
I hope you’ve cooked up a feast!
Happy Thanksgiving from Tanzania!
Marion has written many pages of operating instructions for polymer manufacturing facilities… You too can apply to be a Kiva Fellow for a totally different experience!
Alice Reeves – Timor-Leste
East Timor, Timor-Leste, Timor-Lorosaé…
Literal meaning is important here, and names are not chosen frivolously. Leste means ‘east’ in Portuguese. In the local language, Tetum, Lorosaé means ‘east’ – literally ‘sunrise’. For those of you familiar with Bahasa, the main language of Indonesia, the word Timor can be translated as, well, ‘east’.
Just keep heading towards the rising sun, one day you will eventually arrive at the shores of this rocky, dusty, mountainous island just off the northern coast of Australia, at the very tail end of the Indonesian archipelago. It’s definitely a long way east.
Guard dogs, long hikes and broken-down motos are just a few of the obstacles we face on our hunt to track down new Kiva borrowers.
Along with my trustee co-pilot/loan officer/BFF, Juan Carlos, we’ve managed to catch up with 28 new borrowers this month, and the quest to do-so has been nothing short of an adventure.
In the majority of cases, we’re given a hand-drawn map at the ADICLA headquarters, marked with a few points of interests and accompanied by the customary “you can’t miss it.”
From there, we set off into the countryide and neighboring villages of Sololá with a mission to shake hands and deliver opportunity.
We’re able to zoom in on our financial targets through a pinball-like strategy of asking one neighbor after another until a name sticks with somebody. It’s a numbers game, but we always find a match (eventually).
The paths we take often turn into winding sidewalks, between and through homes, fields and workshops, so we count on the fact that people of the Guatemalan countryside know their neighbors by name within a few mile radius.
The things we don’t often factor in along our journey however, are what make this glorified scavenger hunt so exciting.
Last week alone , we were chased off a property by three protective guard dogs, hiked 45-minutes up a terrace farm in the pouring rain and had to repair Juan Carlos’ moto four times in two hours because apparently the chain isn’t fit for a 200 lbs gringo.
These are the moments that make our meetings so special.
The opportunity I have to visit borrowers, in their natural surroundings, in what may seem like the most remote of locations, has no doubt been the highlight of this fellowship.
From fabric weavers and mecanics, to grocery store clerks and onion farmers, once we make it through the obstacle course that is the actual arrival, we’re always met with open arms and big smiles.
Sometimes I think their smiles come from us being there and other times I think it just makes them happy knowing what we went through to find them.
Here are a few more visual highlights of our conquests thus far…
By Gareth Leonard, KF19, Guatemala
We’re only two weeks into dating and she’s already shown me enough to get my heart racing and palms sweating in anticipation. She’s humble and traditional, yet her raw beauty seduces me at every curve.
Working with a new and ambitious field partner has given me the opportunity to see a few different sides to her already. I’ve visited eleven borrowers in two distinct regions since my arrival and I’m hooked. I know we just met and we’re barely rounding first, but I can’t wait to see what else she’ll expose once we get to know each other better.
I’ll keep you posted on my love affair with Guatemala as it unfolds, but in the meantime, here are a few visuals to show you where we stand thus far.
The first two weeks of my fellowship found me cruising around the Guatemalan countryside on the back of an old Honda Enduro, as we ventured from borrower to borrower, collecting information and absorbing all the scenery. These moments helped shape my first impressions of Guatemala.
The rough and wild roads provide the perfect vantage point to capture her beauty, from stunning villages that cascade down into Lake Atitlan to waterfalls that cut through the cliffs above.
While the views are spectacular, nothing compares to meeting the borrowers first-hand and learning about how they’re developing their businesses through Kiva loans.
On my downtime, I’ve been exploring my new surroundings the best way I know how – Eat everything in sight. A new friend introduced me to the best Ceviche in Panajachel and I’ve been addicted ever since.
Can you see why I’m smitten already?
Diana Biggs | KF 18 | Burkina Faso
The words of Arcade Fire’s song Lenin, “cause the money’s all been spent” took on a new meaning as I sat writing this blog. Savings has been on my mind a lot over the past two months of my fellowship — most prominently, in the context of the field and the role that microfinance plays in both teaching and facilitating savings for the poor.
This topic brings a lot of difficult questions: With such extremely small amounts of money available, how does one manage to put anything aside? And yet, without this, what happens when you child falls ill with malaria? How does one get together a sum large enough to pay their school fees? How do you put a roof over your head when your hut has been washed away in a flood? If the money stays in your pocket, the little costs of the day-to-day could quickly add up until “the money’s all been spent”…
Olivia Hanrahan-Soar | KF18 | Johannesburg, South Africa
In January of this year, a fatal stampede occurred at the University of Johannesburg while students and parents waited at the University’s gates, anxious to secure one of several hundred last-chance places. The stampede left one dead and several injured, and is a tragedy emblematic of the societal difficulties engendered by lack of access to education in South Africa. Last year, About 85,000 students had applied for the roughly 11,000 seats available at the University of Johannesburg; 20,000 more than the previous year. While access to education is tough to come by, there are organisations in South Africa working to meet the demand for education shown by the country’s youth, and students determined to succeed in getting their education.
Raphael Ferry | KF18 | Cameroon
I’m not thinking in terms of number of patent filings, amount of venture funding, or angel investors by square foot (or meter), but on many other metrics, Yaoundé, Cameroon far outpaces the more obvious entrepreneurial hubs of London, Tel Aviv, Singapore, and Silicon Valley. Everyone here is an entrepreneur. That spirit is palpable. From papaya sellers, to cell phone credit merchants, to self-proclaimed podiatrists selling shoes, the streets of Cameroun’s capital are swarmed with people dealing in every product you can imagine.
The diversity of enterprises is impressive. You’ll find jeans, q-tips, phones, tomatoes, ties, boiled peanuts, soccer cleats, and grilled corn all on one block. And every seller is somehow creating value. From purchasing ginger in bulk to sell individually to preparing and grilling fish (a delicious meal but with obvious risks for delicate expats), these entrepreneurs are doing everything they can to provide for their families. It’s in busy streets like these that microfinance still has tremendous potential.
Julie Kriegshaber | KF 18 | Uganda
On my seemingly endless journey from NYC to Kampala, Uganda, I barely slept at all.
Free movies on the plane, my recently updated Spotify playlists, even SkyMall – none of it appealed to me. Why? I was so engrossed in my book, Freedom From Want, that tells the story of BRAC and how it evolved from a small, temporary solution to a devastating cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1970 to today being the largest development organization in the world by many counts.
We all are familiar with Bangladesh’s other major development export, the Grameen Bank, but what shocked me is how relatively unknown BRAC is outside of development circles in the west.
This year marks BRAC’s 40th anniversary -after growing for 30 years in Bangladesh, BRAC in the past 10 years has expanded to 10 other countries, including Uganda, where it is (no surprise here!) the largest NGO in the country. With operations reaching 2.8 million Ugandans, BRAC Uganda is a true all-in-one development organization with specialized programs from education to health to empowering young women to improving small businesses through microloans.
From what I have seen as a Fellow at BRAC Uganda, I think there are 3 distinct features in many of their programs that make BRAC as an organization so successful. In light of Kiva’s monthly theme “A Global Feast”, I am going to highlight these features in regard to BRAC Uganda’s agricultural development programme. (This is also convenient for me since I am preparing to roll out BRAC Uganda’s agricultural loans on Kiva!)
By Muskan Chopra | KF18 | Kenya
Sitting in the Virgin Atlantic flight to London after 10 weeks in the field, I knew of one thing with absolute certainty – Kenya will rightfully own a piece of me forever.
Never have I found myself in a new country, expecting it to change me. But Kenya surpassed all unreasonable expectations. Seeing such diversity of nature, living in local communities, soaking in the culture, meeting small people with big dreams… I transformed myself.
Meredith Pierce | KF18 | New Orleans
As I spend more time here in New Orleans — and as I get ready to depart — I have started to appreciate the daily sounds I take for granted. Just as important as the visual scenery, sounds can transport us to faraway locations.
In the past months, Kiva Fellows have shared video stories, insights on public transportation and accounts of our excursions into the field, but we’d like to invite you to experience our everyday lives through sound. Below are some clips that a few of us recorded in our various countries. Can you tell what they’re of or where they were recorded? Give us your best guess in the comments!
By Anya Raza | KF18 | Pakistan
Racing against the onset of monsoon season and the holy month of fasting, Ramadan, my female colleague Shazia and I challenged ourselves to travel 1,500 km across South Punjab to meet with seven borrowers in three days.
The mission was to complete an audit of sorts, known as a “borrower verification.”
What may seem like an awkward, laborious task is in fact most fellows’ favourite part of their fellowship — the chance to travel and meet borrowers in the flesh.
To meet Rani, we had to park our car under the sole tree on that lane and continue by foot into a tiny village divided by railroad tracks. Overseeing a bustling home with children, goats and neighbors casually popping in and out continuously, Rani shared with me the ambitious story of her seamstress/farming endeavors made possible through Kiva loans over the past five years.
“It takes two hands to applaud,” Rani emphasized, highlighting her need to supplement her husband’s income as a mason.
By Marc Raifman | KF18 | New York
When I first met the other Kiva fellows, I asked them where they would be working. I heard Kenya, Peru, Indonesia, and many more places I someday hope to visit. I listened and began to share their excitement, worries and curiosities.
Then they asked me where I would be working on microfinance.
“Um, New York.”
“Um, isn’t that where you’re from?”
Indeed it is. Unlike many of my more impressive colleagues, I came back to New York, with all the amenities to which I’m accustomed, to be a Kiva Fellow.
While I don’t have the opportunity to explore a different culture, I find myself on an exciting frontier of Kiva, an organization that is perpetually searching for inspired and practical solutions to financial problems. As my fellow fellows work to expand and strengthen Kiva around the world, I’m working on a pilot project known as Kiva Zip. The lending model we seek to create will facilitate direct peer-to-peer lending, continue expanding access to capital in the U.S. and abroad, and explore untested hypotheses about the nature of borrowing.
Oh, and did I mention that our loans are made at zero-interest?
The traditional Kiva model has already inspired a new understanding of the concept of lending. By connecting people around the country and around the world, Kiva has shown that small groups of individuals can play the role of banker for those whose success would not generate enough profit for larger banks to take an interest.
What Kiva accomplished for lenders, we now seek to accomplish for borrowers.
Since its creation in November, Kiva Zip has sought to prove that in the right context, small-scale borrowers can outperform the expectations placed upon them by traditional lending criteria. We do not believe that credit scores and cash flow projections are the only ways to predict success.
The context that matters here is the community. There is no doubt that one’s community affects his or her behavior. We believe that with the community, friends and family invested in the success of a business owner, no matter how small, their success and repayment rates will stabilize at a high level.
That is why at Zip we are testing due-diligence models that make use of community partners with an established relationship with the borrower. These community partners are known as trustees. We will encourage individuals to play multiple roles, as borrower, trustee, and lender, so the connections among them increase and their investment in one another’s success grows stronger.
We are seeking a broad spectrum of partners, including advocacy organizations, entrepreneurship classes, chambers of commerce, and religious institutions, as well as individuals who understand where there is need and opportunity.
Kiva Zip loans in the United States do not currently exceed $5,000, but as we provide this stepping stone to entrepreneurs in the States, as well as entrepreneurs in Kenya where Kiva Zip is also active, we will be searching for and finding solutions that will eventually contribute to more opportunity for all.
I encourage you, reader, to not just make a loan, but to think about where these ideas can create a positive impact in your communities, and let us know about it!
Marc Raifman is a Kiva Fellow, working in New York and Chicago this summer with Kiva Zip. If you would like to find out how you can get involved with this innovative program, you can reach him at Marc.Raifman@fellows.kiva.org. You can also find out how you can become a Kiva Fellow or find more information on Kiva and microfinance in general on kiva.org.
By Olivia Hanrahan-Soar | KF18 | Zambia and South Africa
Right now, I’m in the middle of a Zambian road trip. I’m working with one of Kiva’s newest non-traditional partners, Mobile Transactions Zambia (MTZ): a business which provides funds to entrepreneurs who want to own mobile money kiosks all over Zambia. This is Kiva’s first foray into mobile money, and it’s proving to be extremely valuable for the borrowers as well as their communities. Msanide, for instance, wants to become an MTZ agent: instead of transporting cold, hard cash, people will be able to use Msanide’s shop to send money quickly, safely and cheaply all over the country.
Check out Mundia and Muyoyeta for more : I’ve visited both of them this week, via a small odyssey involving a two-day drive through a nature reserve, home to the Zambian cheetah, and a mosquito-infested swamp crossing. These guys are great examples of how mobile money technology is connecting rural communities to the rest of the economy: like M-PESA in Kenya, MTZ has the potential to be a real catalyst for change in Zambia. (more…)
Julie Kriegshaber | KF 18 | Uganda
Ahh, Kampala. So charming, so dusty, so chaotic.
Due to a bit of poor planning on my part, I had about 32 hours between landing in Kampala and starting my Fellowship, so my first week here was a bit of a blur. Somewhere within the disorder of my first days, I met two Ugandans with inspiring stories that stuck out to me, and I want to share their stories here.
So, meet Walter and Destreet. They don’t know each other and their only common link (aside from meeting me!) is that they both had a vision and decided to make it a reality. Oh, and they are both young – Walter is 25 and Destreet is only 24!
Icaro Rebolledo |KF18 | Peru
Whether it is the Greek/Egyptian elections, Rio +20 meeting or the 2012 Eurocup (c’mon England!)…all the people involved have something to learn from our local Father’s Day football tournament here in Chiclayo- Northern Peru. Yes, we won the tournament!… and how great it feels to be the champions (and score plenty of goals!). Yet, the real enjoyment happened when everyone came together to share the prize (a few too many bottles of beer); if you saw the dancing you would certainly understand! It is crucial for as many people as possible to be able to enjoy the benefits of individual success in order to create a sense of community and strive towards a common goal; political, environmental or any other (more…)
By Kimberly Strathearn, KF 16/17, Turkey
Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” Anonymous
National Volunteer Week 2012 (April 15-21) has come and gone and despite my best intentions to post this blog during that week–it didn’t happen. But that does not mean I appreciate our SUPER Maya volunteers any less, in fact, I am going to use this blog as the perfect chance to brag about some of the individuals and schools that volunteer for Maya. Some translate Maya Entrepreneur Profiles and Journal Updates from Turkish to English while others help out with more technical translations or other projects.
When I first started my Fellowship back in September 2011 with KF 16, I immediately recognized that since Maya is such a small program, the Kiva Coordinator is out in the field 3-4 days a week, and none of the loan officers speak English, we were going to need some help getting the profiles and journal updates translated.
Through some groups I belong to here in Istanbul, I sent out some notices seeking volunteers. I was blown away by the response but shouldn’t have been because I know that volunteer opportunities can be hard to find and a logistical nightmare (traffic and Istanbul is a large city).
So without further delay, let’s see who are some of the volunteers that are vital to helping Maya and what they do: