Peace Corps Volunteers and Kiva Fellows

14 August 2010 at 07:00 12 comments

By Amber Barger, KF12, Mongolia

The goals of the United States Peace Corps and the Kiva Fellows Program fit quite well with each other. Because of this, I’m able to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) and Kiva Fellow at the same time. Both programs promote cross-cultural awareness and capacity building within the given host community. Let’s look at how the volunteer programs relate to each other.

The United States Peace Corps’ mission has three goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

The Kiva Fellows Program corresponds with the Peace Corps structure. The Fellows focus on helping to improve the knowledge, capacity, and systems within their assigned Microfinance Institution (MFI). Then, inherently, by working with the Fellow, the MFI staff learns a bit about the culture that the Fellow comes from. The Fellows also create an international awareness on behalf of their host communities by visiting borrowers, posting journal updates, creating borrower press profiles, writing on the Fellows blog, etc. Kiva Fellows can meet the needs of all three of the Peace Corps’ goals.

From my own experience, I’d say that Peace Corps, as a whole, focuses more on culture aspects like learning the local language, integrating into the host community, and living like the local people, than the Kiva Fellowship Program. Peace Corps supports community integration by providing intensive language training, local culture trainings, a living stipend at the same level of locals, and a contract period of 27 months of service. The Peace Corps framework lends itself to integration within the community, and then from developing relationships within the community, the Peace Corps Volunteer can build successful work programs.

The Kiva Fellowship can be a much shorter program, with a minimum of three months of service. In my experience, the Kiva Fellowship Program focuses more on the capacity building of the MFI and implementing a work plan that focuses on creating an international awareness of the host country’s people. The Fellowship Program attracts professionals who have a variety of skills in consulting, microfinance, marketing, photography, non-profit management, investment banking, etc. Each Fellow has a unique set of skills that the program matches with an MFI that needs those specific skills. The Fellowship Program creates a work plan that the Fellow and host MFI follow to meet the goals that Kiva has for that specific MFI. The Fellowship training week mostly focuses on the Fellow’s work plan items and how to do them within the context of Kiva.

If you’re looking for an entry into international development, I’d encourage you to look at both Peace Corps and the Kiva Fellows Program. I often hear a saying that says, “You can’t get a job in international development without a job in international development.” These volunteer programs are great stepping stones into the field. About eight Kiva Fellows have been past Peace Corps Volunteers and I know of a couple of Kiva Fellows who are looking to join the Peace Corps.

I look forward to using my two years of experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer to assist me in my Kiva Fellowship.  Please follow me over the next year as I try to give you a look into Mongolian borrowers, culture and business practices, among other things.

Rural area outside of Uvurkhangai Province, Mongolia


Check out how to apply to be a Kiva Fellow.

Check out more information about Peace Corps International and Peace Corps Mongolia.

If you’re a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, please join the Kiva RPCV lending team.

Amber Barger is currently serving as a Kiva Fellow in Mongolia. She has lived for the past two years in rural Mongolia as a community economic development Peace Corps Volunteer. She is also extending a third year with the Peace Corps as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader.

Entry filed under: KF12 (Kiva Fellows 12th Class), Mongolia. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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  • 1. S Boone  |  1 September 2010 at 14:07

    If a PCV develops a medical condition in country, is there any post assignment (many years) assistance available?

    • 2. Sam  |  12 October 2010 at 02:29

      Depends, but for the most part the answer is yes.

  • 3. David Oglaza  |  16 August 2010 at 14:29

    I met a lot of peace corps during my time in Nepal and I think you should continue to work in and with KIVA. The aims are the same

  • […] here for more on Amber’s blog post. […]

  • 5. Alexis  |  15 August 2010 at 22:57

    I am an RPCV (Guatemala 07-09) and a former Kiva fellow (KF11, Bolivia). I agree that PC and Kiva fellows are two VERY different experiences. As a PCV, I lived in a rural municipality working with schools on health. As a Kiva fellow, I lived in the capital and worked with microfinance institutions. My Peace Corps experience was fantastic preparation for my Kiva fellowship because it prepared me well for the challenges I would face. The integration skills I acquired during my two years in Guatemala allowed me to successfully integrate into Bolivian culture which was key to the completion of my workplan. I encourage RPCVs who are interested in continuing in the sector of international development to consider Kiva fellows (on the flip side, I also encourage Kiva fellows to apply to Peace Corps :). It’s a great way to gain a new perspective on development work. Kiva (and PC) love!

  • 6. asb353  |  14 August 2010 at 16:13

    FDE – I think I’m the first to be a Kiva Fellow simultaneously serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). As a PCV, I’m required to have a host country agency (HCA). My original placement for my first two years of service was with the Uvurkhangai Chamber of Commerce. I applied and was approved for a third year extension with Peace Corps Mongolia as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL). The PCVL position in Mongolia requires me to work part-time at the Peace Corps office, and then the Kiva Program is my HCA for the other part of my time. Actually in my M19 PCV class there are eight extendees with three of us being PCVLs.

    The Kiva Fellowship is a completely volunteer position, whereas Peace Corps pays a small living stipend, covers medical expenses, and travel to and from the country. In my case, Peace Corps is still paying for all of my expenses, just as they would if I was working at another HCA in Mongolia. Normally, the HCA doesn’t pay for the services of the PCV but the HCA sometimes pitches in for smaller expenses like monthly utilities.

    There are many countries where both Kiva and Peace Corps have a presence. I think there has been some informal contact between the two groups in the field in certain countries. If you’re a current PCV and are looking to get involved with Kiva in your country of service – reach out to the Kiva volunteer translation team or to a Kiva Fellow that is in country.

    There are many ways to get involved with Kiva informally without making the full time commitment of a Kiva Fellow. However, if you’re an RPCV or extending PCV, I’d encourage you to look into doing a Kiva Fellowship!

  • 7. PK  |  14 August 2010 at 11:50

    Why not let all PCs do KIVA like they do SPA grants for USAID?

    Do they need anyone else when all PCs are qualified to do the work, paid and where KIVA wants them?

    • 8. Sam  |  14 August 2010 at 20:02

      Hi PK,
      KIVA fellows want to make an organization that accesses the skills and backgrounds of a diverse group of people. Though there may be many within Peace Corps who could become KIVA Fellows, they also want other views and experiences. Peace Corps is a great experience to have, but other people coming into the program just came from working at major Finance organizations, or on leave from Google for three months. These people offer things that PCV’s in the field may not be able to offer.
      And to say that all PCV’s already work where KIVA wants them is actually a bit of a misnomer. I am currently in Tajikistan where about 14% of all KIVA loans come from, and where KIVA works with three different MicroFinance Insititutions. There has never been a Peace Corps presence in this country, and though Peace Corps may one day come to this country, and I hope they do, I am not sure what they would be doing.
      I was a PCV in Ukraine (which has a Kiva partner organization), but I lived within the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (which is not covered by said organization). I worked as an English and Healthy Lifestyles teacher. And though I would have loved to do Peace Corps and Kiva Fellowship at the same time, it would have been impossible and a bit difficult to change so drastically.
      Thats not to say that I do not think that Peace Corps and the Kiva Fellows Program should not work together, and that RPCV’s and current PCVs would not make great additions to the Kiva Fellows team.
      I just feel that making the KIVA Fellows program exclusive to the Peace Corps would limit its ability and be partially detrimental, as part of the role is to expand the knowledge of Microfinance, and bring people from just using the website, to becoming a part of the organization itself.

  • 9. FDE  |  14 August 2010 at 08:11

    I still don’t understand what a KIVA is or why it’s only a few months and why there has to be an agreement with PC other than to pay the expenses of the PC. Does PC require payment for the PC placements with KIVA? KIVA? If your required to extend to be a leader; are you required to be an RPCV or extension to be a KIVA or can you start from training and do PC train these? Can I do KIVA once I’m trained and in my site?

    • 10. Sam  |  14 August 2010 at 20:07

      Visit this site, it will explain what KIVA is.
      Hope you are having a good time FDE, and do not be too worried about everything.

  • 11. Sam  |  14 August 2010 at 07:41

    I also encourage any RPCV’s to apply and do the program. I am using my readjustment allowance to fund my Kiva Fellows experience, so it is easier to do than one might think.

  • 12. Sam  |  14 August 2010 at 07:39

    YAH!!!!!! I would also put RPCV as a Tag. I want this to go everywhere.
    As one of the RPCV’s who is doing Kiva Fellows Program the only thing I can add is this, both have trade offs. Due to the more MFI focus of the Kiva Fellowship, you are more structured then any Peace Corps service I’ve ever heard of. But due to logistics, fewer people (read A LOT fewer people) working at the Kiva office, and it being almost impossible to do with the budget they get, Kiva does not offer quiet the security and health services that Peace Corps does.
    That being said, combined I feel these two programs, taken in tandem like Amber, or one after another like the other 8 of us, is a great way to see the world, and get involved in International Development.
    Спасибо, Рахмат, Thank you for this great post.

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