Kiva Fellows by the Numbers

14 March 2011 at 04:00 8 comments

By David McNeill (Sierra Leone) and Adam Cohn (Rwanda), with lots of help from the 14th class of Kiva Fellows

It turns out that one thing Kiva Fellows seem to have in common is a love for data. With that, Kiva Fellows David and Adam polled the current fellows in the field on the costs of various necessities and niceties in their current placements. The numbers, which we humbly title the Kiva Fellows Index, give some good insight into the conditions in the far-flung places we now live and work.

Far from home

Kiva Fellows are in it for the long haul. On average, we’re 5,745 miles away from home, as the crow flies. The fellows who have trucked the farthest, at least by line of sight, are: Adam Cohn, who crossed 8,892 miles from Seattle, WA to Kigali, Rwanda; Caitlin Ross, who also went to Kigali from her home in Burlingame, CA, for a total of 9,417 miles; and the longest haul goes to Lisa Skowron, who flew 9,519 miles from her home in Chicago, IL to Kupang, Indonesia!

The first prize for the slowest Internet speed goes to Carlos Cruz in Liberia, with a close second and third for Claudine Emeott in Nepal and David McNeill in Sierra Leone. They experience speeds 10-100 times slower than in the US, making them thankful to the Kiva engineers who make one of the quicker websites to load. At these speeds video chatting is impossible, voice is dodgy if possible at all, and emails aren’t even guaranteed to work. Forget about watching videos on YouTube or listening to Internet radio. Having Internet access is quickly becoming almost as important as having electricity or indoor plumbing.

Many of us are serving in hot parts of the world without the blessing of air conditioning. The unlucky winners in this category are neighbors in West Africa – Carlos Cruz in Liberia and David McNeill in Sierra Leone. They survive high temperatures in the low 90’s (F) and lows that only get down to the upper 70’s or low 80’s (F). Carlos, we hope you’ve got a fan and electricity to run it like David does (most of the time).

On the other side of the spectrum, Amber Barger is struggling to keep warm in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where it dips down to -9 (F) at night. David would be happy to trade one of his hot sunny beaches for some of Amber’s ice!

Amber trying to stay warm on her unheated camel ride in Mongolia

Carlos Cruz got the sweetest deal on rent, with free housing courtesy of his host microfinance institution in Liberia. The runner up is Gustavo Visalli in Totonicapan, Guatemala. He pays only $100/month, and that includes electricity, a flush toilet, and all the black beans and eggs he can eat!

Gustavo cooking up his all-you-can eat buffet in his sweet house in Guatemala

There are some definite advantages to working in developing countries. Most of us spend less than $1 getting to work each day riding buses, motorcycles, or other modes of public transportation. For David in Sierra Leone, a ride in the back of a car taxi to a town 2.5 hours away only costs $3.50 (there are four people squished in a seat made for three, though). Stephanie Sibal has the sweetest deal on transportation – her host organization in Phnom Penh, Cambodia provides her a car and driver to bring her in to work in the morning.

With the cost of oil on the rise, we did a quick poll of gas prices where we are serving. The highest price is in South Africa at $5/gallon. If you want the cheapest price, you’ll have to drive to Indonesia ($2.15/gallon) or Kyrgyzstan ($2.73/gallon).

For refreshment, Stephanie Sibal is a definite winner – she only has to pay 15 cents for a Coke served in a plastic baggie! The following people have a four-way tie for the cheapest beer at only $1 a bottle: Stephanie Sibal again (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), John Gwillim (Barranquilla, Colombia), Geeta Uhl (Ayacucho, Peru), and John Farmer (Mexico City, Mexico). For coffee, some people like John Farmer have the luxury of a nearby Starbucks in Mexico City, Adam Cohn can drink 100% local coffee at multiple Bourbon locations in Rwanda, while poor Noreen Giga is still searching for a good cup in Lima, Peru.

Stephanie enjoying her Bag-o-Coke in Cambodia

As you can see, some of life’s necessities are more accessible, while others are prohibitive, for those who relocate to the other side of the globe. If you’d like to look at our full spreadsheet of stats, you can see it here.
Have you found places where a Coke is incredibly expensive, or internet is mind-blowingly slow? Let us know in the comments!

Entry filed under: Africa, Cambodia, Guatemala, Indonesia, KF14 (Kiva Fellows 14th Class), Kyrgyz Republic, Sierra Leone, South Africa. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Update from the Field: Carnival, Collaboration + Cheese-Making Death By Fire


  • […] Kiva Fellows by the Numbers Countries: Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Mexico, Ghana, Uganda, Mongolia, Ukraine, Nepal, Peru, Cambodia, Indonesia, Liberia, Guatemala, South Africa, Colombia, Bolivia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan / Fellows: By David McNeill (KF14) & Adam Cohn (KF14) but featuring the entire 14th class Ever wonder how far Fellows travel for their placements or how slow the Internet really is in Liberia? And did you know that you can buy Coca-Cola in a plastic bag for $.15 in Cambodia? Discover more fun facts about Kiva Fellowships in this post and the accompanying spreadsheet. […]

  • 3. Stephanie Sibal  |  16 March 2011 at 18:00

    I love how unique this blog post is! Hope readers enjoyed it.

  • 4. ndotoyakidege  |  15 March 2011 at 10:59

    Ahahahhaaaa!!! You know what makes this post? The pics. Gus looks happy as a clam with his black bean and egg buffet, the photo of Steph could be a print ad no lie, and Amber is the picture of a Kiva Fellow juggernaut. Nice work!

  • 5. jane stuchell  |  15 March 2011 at 03:14

    The comparisons are eye-opening for insular Americans!

  • 6. Gabriel  |  14 March 2011 at 17:53

    Great post. Hello from KF12.

  • 7. The Kiva Fellows Index | David's Blog  |  14 March 2011 at 10:57

    […] blog, a place where Kiva Fellows write about microfinance and our experiences. Today I posted a collaborative write-up on our class of about 20 Kiva Fellows about what life is like where we are serving around the […]

  • 8. howard zugman  |  14 March 2011 at 04:37

    Hi David and Adam,

    Thanx for having the idea and taking the time to give us a “peek” at part of your day to day. If you decide to follow up on this great idea food and water and language barriers (?) would be topics of interest (at least to me).

    Keep up the fine work!

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