After spending three weeks in Kenya (a third one in Tanzania reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro) and having the chance of experiencing the realities of the field as a Kiva Zip fellow I can’t feel more blessed with life for being here.

I define it as opportunity for learning while doing an impact and that is everything I need for my life at the moment. I am having the perfect exposure to gather the strength and confidence I need in order to achieve catalyst change in the way people think and act. Only with the sake of bringing process to humanity.

Being in Africa is only strange when I get to think about it. When I am working in the field or just having a matatu ride in the packed roads of Nairobi I just forget about everything else. I compare it to playing any sport you feel passionate about, where all that matters is the present moment. A present that came as a blessing for having found a home away home.

I can’t deny nonetheless that there were some particular events that I would like to remark from these weeks. Just like a football match where there are always highlights throughout the game:

  • Showed off that I reached the summit of Kilimanjaro on a snow storm. Oh Yeah! You also want to hear about it?
 
  • Slept in a couch for 12 days before I found an apartment where I could stay.
  • Played basketball with a professional player from the national Kenyan team. She is currently running Safe Spaces a trustee organization from Kiva Zip that empowers young women from the slums through reproductive health training, arts, sports and entrepreneurship.
Power Dunk in the Slums!
  • Visited Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa. Some people would say 200k people live there, others would say 2 million. The only truth is that the word Kibera means jungle in Nubian language.
  • Visited more than 25 delinquent borrowers and tried to understand the reasons for their delinquency.
  • Watched the Kenyan presidential debate and got really into the future of a nation that is not mine.
  • Played football at Strathmore University with a bunch of teachers and felt like a student again.
  • Skyped with my girlfriend every night while surrounded by 6 other female fellows making fun of me because of how many times I say “mi amor” to her. #latinsarecorny
Those were only the highlights from 3 weeks and this match called Kiva Zip Fellowship has 13 more weeks to go. My challenges include among others, increasing Kenyan borrowers’ repayment rate from 84.6% to 95% and implement the learnings of the process for future delinquency prevention. A difficult goal that I have set to myself and that I have no option but to succeed. For this, I always try to keep in mind one of the most inspirational quotes from Mohammed Yunus:

Kiva Fellowship Traning


“Credit without strict discipline is nothing but charity. Charity does not help to overcome poverty. Poverty is a disease that has a paralyzing effect on mind and body. A meaningful poverty alleviation program is one that helps people gather will and strength to make cracks in the walls around them”
 
And it doesn't end there, my other challenge revolves around the usage of mobile technology. Our main cornerstone in order to achieve the goals of the Kiva Zip model:
  1. Lower costs for the borrowers (0% loan interest rate)
  2. Increase access for under deserved an under banked populations through mobile technology (70 % of the population in Kenya have an MPESA account)
  3. Deepen connection between borrowers and lenders through mobile sms communications
Mpesa Kiosk in Nairobi

In concrete I am putting my two cents through the redesigning and testing of a mobile loan application so we can unblock one of our trickiest bottlenecks that is the paper work burden and loan supply. I am first assessing the reception of the mobile loan app from the borrorwers and so far 28 out 30 have chosen the mobile option. Second, I am iterating with the app creating new versions so we can get consistent data for the borrower profiles. Wish me luck because for version 1 I haven’t been getting the most ideal responses:

From one of the borrowers:

Q1: FOR THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS YOUR ANSWERS WILL BE POSTED TO THE INTERNET FOR LENDERS TO SEE. PLEASE ANSWER HONESTLY. Where did you grow up? What was it like?
A: Village

Q2: Where do you live today? What is life like?
A: Village

SMS App


That is all for my now dear readers! Keep sharing Kiva love and don’t miss my next blog about how a Kiva Coordinator has become a Kiva Fellow!

Comments

Awesome post! Great recap of a few amazing weeks in Kenya! Kiva Upendo!

I can solve your mobile dilemma. I am working with L'Oreal, one.org, GSMA (www.gsmworld.com) on this and am on the executive committee of the company that invented SMS. This is very serious.

Hello Mark, thank you for your comment and reading my post! Would love to talk about that if we can arrange the space to do it! what about a skype call?

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Felipe grew up in Bogota, Colombia and lived there until he was 17. After that, he went to college in Spain and graduated of Business Administration from the University of Salamanca. On his last year of university he went on exchange to the Netherlands and participated in several entrepreneurial projects around the country. When he finished there and after working for a Bank in Spain during the summit of the financial crisis, his passion for Buddhism led him for a spiritual search. He then took off to Nepal where he volunteered as an English Teach at a Buddhist monastery in the hills of Kathmandu. As an avid and curious traveller, Felipe took part in a Charity Challenge trek to the Anapurna Base Camp in support of an orphanage. His life goal of becoming a mass recruiter of world social entrepreneurs has led them into the world of micro finance and that is how he got to know Kiva. He first had the privilege of working for a Kiva Field Partner in Colombia as the coordinator of the project and now he is thrilled about being a Kiva Zip Fellow in Africa.