Unusual Roles of a Kiva Fellowship

27 April 2011 at 12:50 4 comments

What do a woman, a priest, a diamond trader have in common with microfinance?

As a Kiva Fellow one has many roles like trainer, guest speaker, advisor and others but I never expected someone to think of me as a woman, a priest or a diamond trader… how did it happened?

Meeting a Microfinance Group in Monrovia


Walking through a small town I was happily greeted by many kids that were calling me Father – it sounded more like ‘fada’. I didn’t understand what they were calling me until my friend explained that the few foreigners came to the area and they are mostly priests visiting churches… If I was a foreigner, then I had to be a priest.

Fellow on the Road

Why would someone think I am a woman? While visiting a small town in Sierra Leone two little boys were arguing if I was either a man or a woman, the one who said I was a man had talked to me the other had just seen me and was saying I was a woman because I have straight hair. It was an area that doesn’t receive many visitors and only women wear hair extensions or wigs with straight hair… If I had straight hair then I had to be a woman.

Another occasion I was waiting outside a store and had an encounter with two immigration officials. They asked me for identification documents. Luckily that day I was carrying my passport and after a couple of minutes talking why I was in Liberia they said they liked microfinance and wanted to be friends; then they casually asked me if I was interested in purchasing diamonds or helping them do business with diamonds in my home country. Never thought a Kiva Fellowship could open these kind of doors in my career.

Besides these unusual roles as a Kiva Fellow, there are others where I have the opportunity to participate in interesting activities related to Microfinance. Recently I was invited to join a lunch with personnel from Liberia’s Central Bank Microfinance Unit. It was great to hear that microfinance is considered as an important tool to activate the economy and also had the chance ask a couple of questions regarding a national personal IDs and about a credit bureau. Liberia currently does not have a national ID to identify its citizens, the closest would be the Voter’s Registration Card which some institutions are already using to identify their borrowers. The credit bureau may take longer. Currently there is only a database of bad loans (and borrowers) where banks submit information on a voluntary basis, but without a National ID system it is difficult to identify people by their name only. Things are changing fast in Liberia and hopefully these tools will soon be in place to have system to protect borrowers and ensure Microfinance indeed helps reduce poverty and activate the economy as it is expected to.

Training for BRAC Liberia Credit Officers

Want to try the world of microfinance around the world??? Join the Kiva Fellows program and give it a shot…

Carlos is enjoying his last weeks working as a a Kiva Fellow in Liberia.

Entry filed under: Africa, KF14 (Kiva Fellows 14th Class), Liberia. Tags: , , , , .

25 Years Working Where the Need is Greatest New Beginnings

4 Comments

  • […] Unusual Roles of a Kiva Fellowship Country: Liberia / Fellow: Carlos Cruz (KF14) How does a Kiva Fellow get mistaken for a woman, a priest, and a diamond trader? Carlos shares the humorous back-stories plus a few more roles he’s taken on during his Fellowship. […]

  • 2. Farah  |  28 April 2011 at 03:59

    Hilarious and at the same time shocking. It’s a shame that their primary contact with the over-seas world is through priests or [illegal?] diamond-traders.
    Glad KIVA is there to diversify their visitors a bit more. Who knows, maybe kids will start calling foreigner Kiva , instead of ‘fada’ – or not. It’s a nice dream, though.

  • 3. Jenn Beard  |  27 April 2011 at 12:58

    Hey Carlos,
    I was in Liberia in February. Such a wonderful country. I enjoyed hearing your stories – sounded like familiar things that happened to us. I have red hair and they couldn’t quite figure that out!

    ~Jenn

    • 4. Carlos  |  28 April 2011 at 08:11

      Glad you liked it Jenn. I agree with you, have met really nice people here and in the few months of my stay have noticed changes for good. Cheers!
      Carlos


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