Have you ever wondered what it would be like for a lender to meet a borrower? Or a corporate partner to meet a field partner? I had the honor and privilege of being part of Kiva’s first-ever corporate trip to the field – Hewlett-Packard’s Matter to a Million Field Correspondent Trip. This was a three-day event consisting of visits to corporate partner HP’s Costa Rica office, to field partner Fundación Mujer’s office, and to borrowers’ homes. Throughout this trip, representatives from HP, Kiva, Fundación Mujer, and borrowers were all together - visiting, laughing, sharing stories, and learning from each other.
Left to Right: HP Correspondent Christine Smith, Kiva Fellow Kelly Diggins, Fundación Mujer Executive Director Zobeida Moya,
Fundación Mujer Director of Credit Jhonny Mejiaz, Kiva Borrower Lucrecia, HP Correspondent Shrividya Rao,
Kiva Director of Development Karen Little, and HP Social Innovation and Volunteerism Program Manager Karol Zeledon
First stop on the agenda was HP Costa Rica’s offices for a Coffee Talk Presentation. Driving to the office, I was excited to have all these parties meet and to be in the same room for the first time in Kiva history. It was amazing to see how many employees are lenders because of HP’s corporate partnership with Kiva. At the Coffee Talk Presentation, these employees had the opportunity to meet borrower Lucrecia, hear her story, and learn how her loan made an impact on her life.
Back Row: Borrower’s business partner and mother-in-law Maria, Yan Carlos Gonzalez, Jhonny Mejiaz, Karen Little,
Christine Smith, Shrividya Rao, Borrower Lucia, and Borrower’s business partner and sister-in-law Rebeca.
Front Row: Karol Zeledon and Kelly Diggins
Next on the itinerary was to visit the office of Fundación Mujer. Fundación Mujer’s employees, Board of Directors, and more borrowers received us with a warm welcome. After introductions, the borrowers talked about their small businesses and expressed their gratitude to all the investors who supported their projects. These borrowers were all Nicaraguan immigrants and explained that because of their immigrant status, they do not have other options for taking out a loan.
Back Row: Borrower Estebana Del Carmen, Kelly Diggins, Borrower Sandra María, Borrower Cindy,
Borrower Leonilia, and Shrividya Rao. Front Row: Karen Little, Karol Zeledon, Zobeida Moya, and Christine Smith
We also spoke with Ligia Calvo, who learned of Fundación Mujer in 1985 when she took out her first loan to support her small business of selling jewelry and purses. She started selling these items door-to-door, then out of her car, and then from a small shop in her home. As her business grew, she was able to save money to pay for her law school.
Three years ago, Ligia joined Fundación Mujer’s Board of Directors. When we asked her about the impact of microfinance, especially among women, Ligia responded that microfinance is very important as it gives opportunity to people who have dreams but limited financial resources. By taking out loans, Ligia learned how to save and invest money. She believes that women are brave and can break down barriers on their own. Ligia happily expressed, “Now I have both my profession and my business on the side. I am proud to be on the Board of Fundación Mujer.”
Ligia Calvo, Fundación Mujer Board Member
The next two days were filled with borrower visits. It was a great opportunity for the HP correspondents and employees to personally see the impact of their loans. One of the borrowers we met was Tatiana. Tatiana creates Fofucha dolls and other crafts from foam and Styrofoam. Her main clients are local schools and teachers. Her business has grown through word of mouth, especially when a teacher begins working at a new school. Tatiana started her business in order to be able to work from home and to care for her mother. When she went to a bank to solicit a loan, she did not qualify because her small business is run out of her home and she has no employees. Therefore, Tatiana found an organization that opened doors for her – Fundación Mujer. Through the support of Fundación Mujer, Kiva, and Kiva Lenders (including HP employee lenders), Tatiana was able to invest in materials to continue to make her crafts.
Kiva’s first-ever corporate trip to the field – Hewlett-Packard’s Matter to a Million Field Correspondent Trip – was a beautiful experience. There are a number of stories to be told and voices to be heard, but for these three days it was amazing that Kiva could help bring together all these parties to share and learn from each other. We all matter, can all make an impact, and can all make a difference – as HP says, “Matter to a Million.”
Left to Right: Yan Carlos Gonzalez, Jhonny Mejiaz, Borrower’s mother Esperanza, Karol Zeledon,
Borrower Tatiana, Christine Smith, Kelly Diggins, Shrividya Rao, and Karen Little
“This was the first time ever Kiva welcomed HP employees to meet with their field partner and the borrowers. I didn’t know what to expect or how to converse considering the language barrier. But the HP colleagues, and Kelly, the Kiva fellow made sure there was no words unheard. I met some incredible and talented women who have grown stronger and independent making their struggle into a success story. I was touched by their warmth, grit and never let go attitude. Through their stories I cried, laughed, bonded and realized to be thankful for what we have. Fundación Mujer’s staff was incredible in accommodating our schedule. Their zeal to support the women in need making their lives better was amazing. I am thankful to all who made this possible for me and inspiring me.” – Shrividya Rao, HP Correspondent
Left to Right: Shrividya Rao, Karol Zeledon, Kelly Diggins, Borrower Deyanira, Jhonny Mejiaz,
“I had high expectations going into the field to meet Kiva borrowers and the actual experience exceeded them 1000 times! I laughed, cried, hugged and bonded with these women in a way that I would not have thought possible with virtual strangers. Their honesty and openness was remarkable; their stories touching. What I loved most was the warmth, determination and faith that each borrower had despite their sometimes tragic circumstances. I am changed forever and changed for the better because of my visit with Kiva, Fundación Mujer, and 10 incredible borrowers.”
Borrower Ivette, and Christine Smith
– Christine Smith, HP Correspondent