My mid-fellowship crisis: What am I doing here?

26 March 2012 at 11:59 4 comments

Jon Hiebert | KF 17 | Mongolia

I woke up on Friday morning just like every other morning.  Slightly pleased with the late start of 9:00 a.m., I still felt awkward getting dressed in my business suit. Then I enjoyed my Choco Chips cereal with milk in bed while getting mentally prepared for another day of laptop projects.

Lookin’ good but a little anxious in my suit.

To get to the office, I walked the tiled sidewalks only recently freed from a four-month coat of ice. I went upstairs, set up my Macbook in Transcapital‘s clean, newly-renovated office in the city center, and continued with my work. I was excited to be working on a report that will help transition another microfinance institution (MFI) from pilot program to full-fledged field partner. It’s still being assessed by Kiva Headquarters. This is just one of a number of projects I’m working on for Kiva, in addition to projects I’ve been asked to complete by the MFIs here. Today will be a productive day, I thought to myself.

But other thoughts started crowding my head.  I really need a haircut, I haven’t shined my shoes in four days, I should really get another winter hat so I don’t have to wear my old blond fox one every single day.  I also found myself being more and more affected — and even disillusioned — by the city’s office culture.  Of course, I work with wonderful people here — but I found myself losing track of why I’m in Mongolia in the first place.

With a full work plan including surveys, questionnaires, reports and interviews on my agenda, I am busy and challenged.  Trying to balance communication and urgency across language barriers and finding out which departments to ask for the information I need is truly an art form.  While all these things are great, I was still losing sight of the big picture.

I started to run through the big questions: Why am I here in Mongolia? What have I dedicated four months of my life to do? I needed answers!

My wonderful coworkers here at XacBank.

As I sat, staring at my screen, one of Kiva’s foundational statements came to mind:

“We believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families.”

And, as a Christian, I remembered these verses of what we are all called to do:

“…defend the rights of the poor and needy.” — Proverbs 31:9b

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” — James 1:27a

These excerpts help explain the semi-recent popularity of microfinance, and ultimately answer what has caused so many people around the world to have dedicated their lives to the concept.  I’m sure thousands of microfinance providers from all walks of life have asked themselves these questions countless times. But this is new to me.  The above answers also speak to these questions:

Why do thousands of lenders around the world invest their hard earned money in sometimes risky micro-ventures?

Why are MFIs like Transcapital, XacBank and Credit Mongol in business here in Mongolia anyway?

Why was Kiva started and why does it continue to operate?

A Kiva borrower at her wood-cutting company.

Sometimes, I can get so caught up in little things in front of me, so enraptured and overwhelmed by things that come across my path, that I forget the big picture. I was forgetting one of the fundamental reasons I wake up in the morning and put on a stuffy suit and tie.  I’m glad I had this realization, because it can be hard to remember the “poor and needy” when I’m working downtown in the middle of modern skyscrapers. No matter where we are, all of us at Kiva (and other similar NGOs and the like) are working to break the cycle of poverty, and ultimately to give borrowers around the world access to financial tools to provide a better life for them and their families.

Wow!  I needed this.  Maybe Excel number crunching isn’t very flashy, and business report writing isn’t too sexy, but these are necessary pieces of the puzzle that aim to give a “hand up” to those in need.  Why not lend to someone in need right now, you too can be a necessary piece of the puzzle to alleviate poverty!

Jon Hiebert (KF 17) is a roving Kiva Fellow working with XacBank, Credit Mongol and Transcapital in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  Join the Mongolia Lending Team and lend to a Mongolian micro-entrepreneur now!

Entry filed under: Anti-Poverty Focus, blogsherpa, Credit Mongol, KF17 (Kiva Fellows 17th Class), Mongolia, XacBank. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Update from the Field: Tropical Business Trips, Less Exhilarating Fellow Roles + Education Inspiration Hitting the Help Wanteds in Jakarta


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