Performing meaningful work for Kiva while learning a new culture

29 March 2011 at 10:24 2 comments

Clara Vreeken, KF 14, Bolivia

Clara volunteers as Kiva Fellow in Bolivia. She works for three micro finance institutions. She verifies borrowers’ data, implements changes and informs the lenders about Kiva’s entrepreneurs. In this blog she elaborates on her tasks as a Kiva Fellow.

Why volunteering as a Kiva Fellow?
Together with my husband I took a sabbatical from our work. Instead of traveling around the world, we wanted to improve our Spanish and learn a South American culture. After the application process via internet and skype, Kiva gave me the opportunity to work for Kiva in Bolivia. In January the Kiva Fellows class was trained at the headquarters of Kiva in San Francisco. Now we all have been sent to Kiva’s field partners all over the world!

Training at the headquarters of Kiva in San Francisco

I’m working together with Bolivian bank employees 40 hours a week. With the loan officers and Kiva coordinators I visit clients and perform interviews. The bank employees and borrowers do not speak English (or Dutch in my case) so enough time for me to speak Spanish!

Eyes and ears of Kiva
Every year Kiva sends Kiva Fellows to its field partners. They are the eyes and ears of Kiva and have three objectives:
1. To verify data of the borrowers at the micro finance institutions by reviewing the system and visiting the entrepreneurs.
2. To implement changes. Kiva is a young organization and changes fast. The new policies are introduced and implemented by the Kiva Fellows.
3. To inform you about the entrepreneurs and Kiva’s work!

Some field partners of Kiva work already a long time with Kiva, others recently partnered up. This means that these field partners need different work from the Kiva Fellows. That is the reason that every Kiva Fellow has its own work plan with different activities for one or more field partners. I work with the following three micro finance institutions: IMPRO, Pro Mujer and Emprender. All three of them have been working already a long time with Kiva.

Implementing change and informing about the entrepreneurs at IMPRO
IMPRO’s employees know how to upload pictures of borrowers and what to write about their clients in the borrower profiles and updates. One part of my work plan was to improve the content of the borrower profiles and updates and the pictures. So I gave trainings to the loan officers and the Kiva coordinator explaining what information the lenders are interested in and why they would like to see a smile on the borrower’s face.

Giving a training at IMPRO

Next to implementing changes I inform the lenders about IMPRO’s borrowers. I visit the clients at their home or they come to the office and I write updates about them to the lenders.

Interviewing a client from IMPRO

Verifying borrowers’ data at Pro Mujer and Emprender
For both Pro Mujer and Emprender I am verifying the data of their borrowers. For both institutions I had to visit 10 clients or client groups and verify whether the loans had really been made.

Pro Mujer works mainly with groups (mainly women). These groups meet every two or four weeks at the offices of Pro Mujer in La Paz. At these meetings the groups repay part of their loan and they receive trainings – about how to run their business, why it is important to save money and about health issues. Sometimes groups meet in the street with their loan officer when the office is difficult to reach for them.

Meeting Pro Mujer’s clients in the streets

Before or after the repayment and training, I interview the leader of the group. I check whether the loan dates, the loan amount and loan use are the same as reported at the Kiva website. I also make notes for an update to the lenders on how the business of the borrower is going and if changes have happened in her live.

Interviewing the leader of one of Pro Mujer’s client groups

At Emprender I had to interview 9 clients and 1 client group, in La Paz and  in Cochabamba (10 hours by bus from La Paz). They have different types of businesses: butcher, hair dresser, taxi driver, agriculture and seamstress. Sometimes the clients are not at home. For example in Cochabamba, one client was not at home twice. Fortunately, she showed up at the office two days later!

Visiting one of Emprender’s clients in La Paz

Kiva Fellowship: amazing experience
The three months of Kiva Fellowship (nowadays the minimum is 16 weeks) are flying! The experience to work with Bolivian bank employees and to visit borrowers is amazing! I would recommend the Kiva Fellowship to everyone, especially to people who want to perform meaningful work for an amazing nonprofit organization and to learn a new culture meanwhile!

Would you also like to become a Kiva Fellow? Have a look at  for more information!

Entry filed under: Bolivia, Emprender, IMPRO, KF14 (Kiva Fellows 14th Class), Pro Mujer Bolivia. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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  • 1. S. Smith  |  8 August 2011 at 16:50

    This is a terrific program – I needed to learn the basics of Spanish for a business trip to Lima, Peru. It got me prepared for the trip with alot of useful Spanish to use on the trip, from transportation to restaurants, to dealing with store vendors and in a few situations on the weekend when we went sightseeing.

  • […] Performing meaningful work for Kiva while learning a new culture Country: Bolivia / Fellow: Clara Vreeken (KF14) Clara walks us through her day-to-day life as a Kiva Fellow in La Paz: giving trainings, meeting with clients at the office and at their businesses, updating lenders, and enjoying the opportunity to speak Spanish. […]

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