Posts tagged ‘volunteer’

My first everything in Ghana

After an easy trip. I arrive to Accra, Ghana. The first feeling you have when you step out of the plane is an intense hot an humidity, and this in when you miss the snow at home.

It is 8 PM and the Ghanian national football team is playing the semifinals of the African Cup against Burkina Faso. The whole country is mobilized. I can hear the screams all along the airport. For the moment they are drawing, but with good opportunites. Maybe it is because of the macth that taxi drivers are behaving in a foolish way. I asked one of them about a hostel I knew, and he answers me he takes me there without any problem. I jumped on the taxi with all my stuff, we move forward few meters and he starts asking everyone where the hostel is. I ask him if he truly knows where it is, and he answers me no.

I make the same process with another taxi and it happens completely the same, till a kind woman called Evelyn, offers me her help. She told me she knew a hostel not far from her home. I relied on her and her little son John.

After a few minutes drive we arrive to the hostel. It was not as cheap as I expected, but it is 10 am, I am exhausted and the last thing I want to do is wandering in an African city of  3,5 million habitants. I go straight  to bed.

The day after everything is the first time for me.

My first bedroom

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Mi first sight of Accra

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My first bathroom

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My first coconut

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My first meal

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My first defeat.

I realize Ghana lost in penalties. It is in that moment when I remind they almost are the first African country in reaching Worldcup semifinals. An Uruguayan player´s hand  and the latter missed penalty of a Ghanian player impeded it.

Bad luck in football continues for me. In El Salvador I attended with Fundación Campo Microfinance the qualifying game between Costa Rica and El Salvador. Of course, they lost.

But this event do not remove the smiles from them. They know what is suffering in the field and out of it. This is why they give thanks for reaching so far and they will try again harder than ever next year.

Captura de pantalla 2013-02-08 a la(s) 21.06.38

The day after the defeat, some supporter demonstraiting their devotion for the national team.

14 February 2013 at 09:00

24th of December in San Salvador

Salvadorean people are strict Christians and their most important date in their calendar is Christmas Eve. They celebrate the Birth of baby Jesus. They live this day quite similar to American  people: meeting the whole family and sharing together.

This is how 24th December was:

5:30

Wake up! Don´t ask me why we get up so early, I don´t understand it yet.

6:30

We killed 2 hens, we plucked them and quartered them, with all the preparation they need.

Captura de pantalla 2012-12-25 a la(s) 19.39.14

8:00

Go to the bank to withdraw the present our brothers & sisters that live in USA has made us in form of remittances. Long queue and slow employees. We wait for an hour.

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9:30

Go to the market with mami Valentina to buy the last things me need to prepare the dinner. It is crazy how busy was the market!

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11:00

Come back home alone because I lost my mami in the market. We continue preparing the hens.

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12:30

We eat eggs with frijoles.

15:00

My sister Marcia prepares Honduran Torrejas and sanwiches.

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17:00

Everything is ready. Lets prepare and stay with friends and family around the area.

19:00

Papa Chente, mami Valentina, hermana Marcia and me have dinner together. The menu is roast chicken  with thin corn Salvadorean pancakes and pineapple juice.

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21:00

Family members begin to arrive. We talk, dance, laugh, chat, hug…altogether!

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22:00

We go to buy fireworks and start exploding them.

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24:00

We hug every single relative and friend, we wish them merry Christmas and continue exploding fireworks!

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3:00

We go to bed after good dances of Cumbia, bachata (my favourite one) merengue, salsa…I get lost with dance names and I don´t distinguish them very well.

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Merry Christmas and happy 2013!

31 December 2012 at 10:00

The magic encounter of all Kiva loan participants in El Salvador.

Few days ago, an American couple that collaborate with Kiva translating loans sent me an email. The team of volunteers they belong to is one of the most important pieces in Kiva (there are nearly 400 volunteers around the world). They make possible all loans, no matter where they come from, are accessible in English.

This couple not only translate loans but also lend money to entrepreneurs through Kiva, especially to El Salvador.  Few years ago, they lived for two years in a little Salvadorean village working as volunteers. When they went back to the USA, they did not want to lose contact with this region and they were looking forward to keep helping in the distance. This is how they found in Kiva the best way to do it. They told me translating loans is easy to combine with their current jobs and you control how much you can do.

They told me they would stay for a week in El Salvador visiting some friends they left in the past and they asked me if it was possible to visit any of the borrowers they translated or invested in. The idea of an encounter between borrower and lender captivated me, and we started to work on it. (Not as easy as it may look: transport, communication and logistics is a different story in deep El Salvador).

After some steps we managed to make the challenge of putting borrowers, Mr and Mrs Luehm, and lender, Mrs Delfina, together. It was one of the best moments I have had in El Salvador. Seeing the encounter among these people and the conversation they had was wonderful.

Photo taken by Carlos, credit advisor from Padecomsm, on 23rd December 2011, when Mrs Delfina asked for a loan.

Photo taken on 22nd November 2012. The encounteer.

Nowadays, with initiatives like Kiva ´s, it is not possible to say either “ I want to help , but I don´t know how nor who” or “I dont want to help because I don´t know where my money goes to and the impact it creates”.

In Kiva, you can find more than 2400 stories and pictures of people/families in need, from every sector and from more than 60 countries. Every euro you lend through Kiva reaches the person you choose, and because it is a loan, not a donation, it bets on the sustainability of the project and consequently his life.

Your small amount, 25 dollars, it´s a lot for them.

Kiva, loans that change lives…

…And brings people´s lives together.

Here are all participants in the process of a Kiva loan: Borrower (Mrs Delfina in the center),Microfinance organization, Padecomsms (Rubidia, Kiva Coordinatos,  and Carlos, credit advisor, in the left) and Kiva (represented by KF19 Juan).

Thanks Lehm couple and Padecomsm for this magic encounter!

2 December 2012 at 09:00 1 comment

A deadly trip and an unpredictable arrival to El Salvador

The Kiva fellowship starts.

With a backpack of 18 kg (half of them are the medicines my mother gave to me), a surfboard that cost me a lot of help and money taking with me, and a box of enthusiasm, doubts and hopes, I head El Salvador, as my father said, one of the most lethal countries in the world. But we always focus on the negative side these countries have. As one film says, lets see the bright side of life.

¿Did you know that El Salvador is considered in several studies as one of the five happiest countries in the world? It is also called as the “40 minutes country”, because it is strange to take more than that to get to your destination. Besides, San Salvador is the oldest capital-city in South America, having one the richest cultural and archaeological heritage in the continent Another strength it has are the virgin beaches and natural reserves, that, due to past insecurity problems, are not that popular as its neighbors’´. Finally, the country has figures than have marked history. For instance, Colonel José Arturo Castellanos saved more than 40.000 jewishs from being killed by Nazis, and Consuelo Suncin inspired the rose of Antoine Saint-Exupéry´s book “The little prince”.

Looking this way to El Salvador, it seems a great country despite its small size. And do not worry if you were not able to locate the country in the world map, I could not either.

After a dying  journey from Spain (15 hours at Washington DC airport + long discussions with the airline not to pay again for the luggage + a cryer baby behind me + out of order entertainment system), I arrived at 7:00 local time to the hot San Salvador airport.

The first thing we are told to do when we arrive to one of these countries is to register ourselves in the national embassy. After doing it, I was about to leave and walk around the city with all my luggage, but the people in the embassy immediately stopped me saying seriously: Are you crazy? You are an easy target in the streets of San Salvador! As I had no place to go before 18:00 PM, they advised me to go to a location where Spanish people meet, which is called “El Centro Español” and Spanish people don´t pay. ”Despite the tough crisis in Spain There are still places where we are welcome and it is free”, I thought for myself.  After their transmission of  insecurity, I had no chance to say no, so I went there.

I arrived to the place and what a fabulous surprise! This Centro Español was a social club where wealthy Salvadorians go. It had a nice swimming pool, tennis courts, trampolines, a gym and many more facilities. I was feeling in heaven. After my long (42 hours) and deadly journey it looked that El Salvador was winking at me.

Later El Salvador sent a crazy storm that caused floods in many regions of the country, but by then I was with one recent friend having choripanes and testing the Salvadorian beer Pilsener.

These were my last hours of occidental luxury before I met few hours later my great partners of adventure Fundacion Campo, Padecomsm and Apoyo Integral.

 

15 October 2012 at 07:00

Silicon Valley’s got nothing on Yaoundé

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.

Outside ACEP Cameroun's downtown office on Avenue Kennedy

Outside ACEP Cameroun’s downtown office on Avenue Kennedy, Yaoundé

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6 September 2012 at 11:36 1 comment

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

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