Posts filed under ‘KF7 (Kiva Fellows 7th Class)’

Blast from the Past: KF7 turned microfinance professor visits Colombia to do field research

What happens to Kiva Fellows once they finish their placement and get released back into the world? This is a question I have asked myself many times as I look ahead beyond my placement in Colombia–luckily I will be part of KF15 and won’t have to make those decisions for a few months! Many of the current fellows will be heading to grad school in the fall, going back to their old jobs, or looking for new jobs in international development. But how many of us get the chance to continue on in the world of microfinance?


Continue Reading 28 March 2011 at 21:35 4 comments

I quit my job for Kiva

It was the summer of 2008. As I sat and watched the stock markets crash around the world from my Cambodian apartment, I could not help but get nervous about my job prospects post fellowship. At that point, I felt like I’d made a mistake by leaving a great job in philanthropy to follow my heart by becoming a Kiva Fellow to learn how microfinance works on the ground. I remember when I told my family of my decision, they thought I was crazy. I was beginning to think they might be right. Watching US financial pillars crash and stock markets tumble each day, I worried and seriously asked myself, “What am I going to do once my time as a Kiva Fellow is done?”

Continue Reading 17 May 2010 at 12:45 13 comments

Kiva Lenders Have Needs, Too

By Abby Gray, KF6 Togo and KF7 Senegal

Jacques, WAGES' Kiva Coordinator, and a colleague taking a boat to visit a Kiva client in a rural area.

Jacques, WAGES' Kiva Coordinator, and a colleague taking a boat to visit a Kiva client in a rural area.

Meet Jacques.  He’s the Kiva Coordinator at WAGES, a microfinance institution (MFI) based in Togo, West Africa.  Every day, a loan officer hand-delivers a stack of borrower information forms and a USB chip full of photos.  Jacques has trained the officers how to fill out the forms, use digital cameras, and get borrowers to smile and display their merchandise proudly for pictures.

Jacques formats the pictures, writes the information into paragraphs, and uploads everything to Kiva’s website.  Then, during the loan cycle, he reports repayments manually and visits borrowers to collect a progress update and take yet another picture.

The work is inefficient, tedious, and time-consuming.

But it’s worth it. (more…)

20 October 2009 at 10:55 10 comments

Power to the People

By Abby Gray, KF6 Togo and KF7 Senegal

How a Kiva Fellow Alumna’s non-profit organization, SunPower Afrique, is shedding light on MFIs in West Africa

“Beep,” complained my laptop, unhappy about its sudden switch to battery power.  The fan above me whirred gently to a stop, no longer drying the beads of sweat incessantly forming on my forehead.  “Page can not be displayed,” grumbled Firefox.  My internet connection was gone, along with any hope I had of uploading my stack of borrower profiles to the Kiva website.

I walked out into the hallway and found the employees of my Senegalese microfinance institution slowly leaking out of their offices as well.  We pulled up chairs in a circle, sat down, and prepared to sweatily twiddle our thumbs until the power gods had mercy on us, whether in ten minutes or ten hours.

An employee at FECECAV, a Togolese MFI, tracking loan repayments by hand. Many of FECECAV's branches operate without electicity.

An employee at FECECAV, a Togolese MFI, tracking loan repayments by hand. Many of FECECAV's branches operate without electicity.

Power cuts are a regular occurrence in West Africa, as in most parts of the developing world. Production and distribution of electricity are unable to meet demand, causing frequent rolling blackouts and interrupted service.  For MFIs (and many other businesses), this means countless manpower hours lost, high overhead costs, low employee morale, a short shelf-life for office equipment and other low efficiencies in daily operations.  These consequences are even more debilitating for MFIs who work with Kiva – the Kiva partnership depends on technology and internet connectivity to successfully fund loans for enterprising clients.  Gasoline-powered generators, the obvious alternative, represent a significant up-front investment and are extremely costly to run and maintain.

So, what can be done to provide MFIs with a reliable source of power??

Enter Kira Costanza, the courageous Kiva Fellow Alumna, galloping in on her trusty steed named Solar Power!

(more…)

19 August 2009 at 15:08 4 comments

Microfinance through New-York-Colored Glasses

By Abby Gray, KF6/7, Togo & Senegal (now in New York)

Apparently, ad execs at Guess forgot to calculate cultural differences before placing these billboards all over Dakar. Senegalese vandalists did not.

In Dakar, this ad provoked vandals to rebel against the culturally inappropriate image. In New York, it wouldn't get a second glance.

If you have to deal with culture shock after 8 months of living in West Africa, New York is one of the most dramatic places to do it. On one hand, the vibrancy and energy of pedestrian-filled, trafficky New York streets isn’t all that different from the dusty “rues” of Dakar. Colorful fruit carts still grace the sidewalks, and overhearing conversations in foreign languages is a daily occurrence. On the other hand, skyscrapers and giant billboards of half-naked models are everywhere, as are exorbitant price tags on everything from purses to sushi dinners.

Having completed my official Kiva duties, I am now doing research at the Financial Access Initiative (FAI), a microfinance think-tank of sorts. It’s a consortium of researchers from NYU, Harvard, Yale, and Innovations for Poverty Action, focused on expanding access to quality financial services for low-income individuals. (more…)

14 July 2009 at 11:47 5 comments

Kiva Fellows’ Blog Quarter 2 in Review

By Kiva Fellows Program Team

Kiva’s launch in the United States on June 10th generated a huge amount of media attention for Kiva, and an equally-large number of hits for the Kiva Fellows Blog. Kudos goes to John Briggs KF8, currently on his second Kiva placement with KADET in Kenya, for his #1 in Q2 post in response to the “Pissed Off Kiva Lenders” lending team with 1,712 views to date.

The top 5 blogs in Q2 were:

1. Pissed Off Kiva Lenders, John Briggs KF8, Kenya

2. A Rose From Florence, Stephanie Koczela KF7, Uganda

3. M-Banking!, Brett Dobbs KF7, Kenya

4. I Am Living In Kisumu, Kenya, Milena Arciszewski KF7, Kenya

5. Welcome, Kiva, to West Timor!, Kieran Ball KF7, Indonesia

Quarter 2 has been a time of change for Kiva, both on a macro level, as people in Kenya and Cambodia make their first Kiva loans to entrepreneurs in northern California and New York City, and a micro level, as Kiva Fellows upload short videos to this very blog detailing the daily activities of borrowers and loan officers alike.

Emily Sweeney KF7, Peru, found the time to travel to Lake Titicaca, where she later found out that many of the artisans selling their crafts on the floating islands were borrowers of her MFI, Manuela Ramos. She was particularly struck by the way microfinance had merged with the unique island culture of Los Uros.  Katie Davis KF7, Cambodia, got a crash course in rice accounting from staff at her MFI in Cambodia, vastly different from the sophisticated financial and analytic tools she used at her job in the United States, but which proved to be incredibly effective.  Several new KF8 fellows have undergone changes since starting their placements in late May and June, including Alia Rafeh KF8, Lebanon, who traveled 7,000 miles to begin her placement with Al Majmoua, Cissy DeLuca KF8, Indonesia, who made the official change from Kiva intern to Kiva Fellow this past Sunday as she departed for her fellowship with TLM via Taipei and Tamara Sanderson KF8, Mongolia, whose role at Kiva changed from volunteer to fellow as she started her placement with XacBank, noting the important role connection plays in empowering a relatively new Kiva MFI.

Videos you should be sure to check out:

Zev travels home from work in Indonesia

Hanh attempts to cross Hanoi’s bustling/frenetic (depending on your point of view) streets shortly after arriving in Vietnam

Athan ate a traditional Umu meal in Samoa

Ashley King-Bischof posted a video of thank yous from borrowers in Cameroon

If you’re interested in learning more about the Kiva Fellows Program or other opportunities to get involved with Kiva, be sure to check out the Do More section on the Kiva website.

30 June 2009 at 15:55 2 comments

¡Adios, Arariwa!

In a desperate last-minute attempt to get my name off the top of the “least-blogging fellows” list and fulfill my grandma’s request for more blogs, I’d like to share some of my favorite photos from my 10-week placement at Asociacion Arariwa in Cusco, Peru.

Arariwa is an amazing organization with an extremely dedicated group of loan officers. I was consistently impressed with loan officers’ dedication to their clients—not just putting in long hours for little pay and running risks by carrying cash, but in some cases even relocating to remote villages in order to serve clients without previous access to financial services. For example, Tula Barazorda and Armando Cabrera live and work in Pilcopata, a remote jungle town that’s 8+ hours from Cusco on rough, narrow dirt roads. Pilcopata is a sleepy little town where there’s little to do but shoot the breeze and swat the mosquitoes. One morning – over breakfast, no less – Tula and Armando had a long, nonchalant conversation about all the different kinds of bugs that can burrow under your skin, how to tell the difference, and the pros and cons of each one (never before have I been so grateful to my parents for raising me in Minnesota, where all we have is ticks).

All in all, my time at Arariwa was an incredible experience, and I’m already itching to go back and visit. I’m also looking forward to reading much more frequent blogs from my Arariwa successor, Lee Bruner!

To see all currently fundraising loans from Asociación Arariwa, click here.

Cynthia McMurry is a fourth-time Kiva fellow working with brand new Kiva field partner Fundación Espoir in Quito, Ecuador. Previously she worked with Fundación AgroCapital in Bolivia and FINCA Peru and Asociación Arariwa in Peru.

17 June 2009 at 13:39 3 comments

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