Author Archive

Same Continent, Different Worlds: Part 2

By Kiva Fellows in Africa, KF16
Compiled by Tejal Desai

Ow de body! Are Sierra Leone and Rwanda still danger zones? What challenges do Ugandans most commonly face? Kiva Fellows from KF16 bring you another unique perspective from the diverse and vast continent of Africa! We patched together an overview of each of our placement countries that includes: basic socioeconomic stats, common stereotypes (and to what extent they are true or false), greatest challenges, most common loan products at our respective field partners, and the borrowers’ most common use of their profits. Our part 2 series follows the Kiva Fellows through Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Uganda. We hope our summaries give you a new perspective on the continent and its distinct countries that we’ve been fortunate to explore, thanks to the Kiva fellowship!

Continue Reading 2 January 2012 at 13:00

Same Continent, Different Worlds: Part 1

By Kiva Fellows in Africa, KF16
Compiled by Tejal Desai

Where might you find muzungu hunting? Where do Kenya’s elite runners hail from? And what do most borrowers in Burkina Faso use their business profits for? Kiva Fellows from KF16 bring you a unique perspective from the diverse and vast continent of Africa! We patched together an overview of each of our placement countries that includes: basic socioeconomic stats, common stereotypes (and to what extent they are true or false), greatest challenges, most common loan products at our respective field partners, and the borrowers’ most common use of their profits. This first post of a two-part series focuses on Kenya, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso. We hope our summaries give you a new perspective on the continent and its distinct countries that we’ve been fortunate to explore during the Kiva fellowship!

Continue Reading 31 December 2011 at 13:00

Swit Salone: A Journey in Photos

By Tejal Desai, KF16, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone boasts lush, tumultuous landscapes, postcard-worthy beaches, delectable home cooking, inspiring stories, and some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. I was fortunate to have been placed in Freetown, Sierra Leone for my Kiva Fellowship at BRAC Sierra Leone. Follow my journey through this beautiful country and its capital city, Freetown. Hope you enjoy the photos!

Continue Reading 6 December 2011 at 13:00 4 comments

Malaria Dreams: The True Kiva Fellowship Experience

By Tejal Desai, KF16, Sierra Leone

As my Kiva fellowship winds down, I reflect on the memorable journey I’ve been privileged to experience through the Kiva Fellows Program as a member of its 16th class. Through personal revelations and humbling lessons in adaptation, microfinance work, cultural differences (and a unique incidence of malaria), I’ve grown attached to beautiful Sierra Leone. Throughout the fellowship, I’ve found my journey paralleling that of a character in a humorous novel, Malaria Dreams by Stuart Stevens, in which a man travels through the Central African Republic in one mission in mind: to find a friend’s Land Rover and drive it back to Europe — only to find that his 3-month journey has a lot more in store for him than he anticipated, and nothing goes exactly as planned. My fellowship similarly followed suit with its own surprises, bumps in the road, and memorable moments.

Continue Reading 1 December 2011 at 16:00 6 comments

The Double-Edged Sword: Sierra Leone’s Battle Against Poverty

By Tejal Desai, KF16, Sierra Leone

Aid: What does it mean for a country recovering from a devastating decade-long civil war that killed over 50,000 of its people? And what does it mean for microfinance organizations that aim to loosen the leash from dependency and push for sustainability? After taking an okada ride through Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, one may find the presence of international aid ubiquitous, and acting as a double-edged sword in the fight against poverty.

Continue Reading 16 November 2011 at 15:00 3 comments

The Donut Hole Conundrum + Mamoud’s Story

By Tejal Desai, KF16, Sierra Leone

Earlier this year, a Kiva fellow in KF14, David McNeill, wrote about his interaction with a Sierra Leonean taxi driver, and addressed a hot issue in microfinance: the financial donut hole. The driver asked David what type of work he was doing in Sierra Leone, and after David mentioned he was involved with microcredit, the driver expressed, “Ah, that is for women.” In his post, David explains how the driver was mostly right: why the microfinance industry concentrates on lending mostly to women, although there are still a small percentage of men who are eligible to receive loans. He continues to explain that the microfinance industry generally targets the poorest of the poor, this “bottom of the pyramid,” but leaves out those who fall in between: the people that are financially overqualified for microcredit, but too poor to receive a bank loan — resulting in the donut hole conundrum. His post makes it clear that microfinance has a long way to go until it can reach all levels of poverty. During my fellowship at BRAC Sierra Leone, however, I have learned about a particular product that is proving to be a small but effective means to fill that rather large donut hole: the small enterprise loan.

Continue Reading 24 October 2011 at 13:00 3 comments

Adventures Chasing Poda-Podas + Hitchhiking in Freetown

By Tejal Desai, KF16, Sierra Leone

In Freetown, Sierra Leone, a range of transportation options welcomes you in every street corner, each option varying in safety, price, comfort, and convenience, and a few requiring some degree of hitchhiking. Being a hitchhiking and Freetown transportation novice myself, I had no idea what to expect when local friends and colleagues encouraged me to flag down random drivers and hop into unfamiliar vehicles to travel around town. The thought of using hitchhiking as a means of transportation and quickly developing trust for anonymous drivers challenged my “don’t jump into cars with strangers and definitely don’t hitchhike!” voice I had held onto since childhood. But through a few initial experiences, I’ve learned how adventurous, convenient, and safe taking shared vehicles and hitchhiking in Freetown can be, and have gained even more respect for the loan officers and Kiva Coordinator who make such adventurous treks to visit borrowers almost daily.

Continue Reading 3 October 2011 at 13:00 10 comments

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