This is a blog from Grace Natoolo, the Kiva Coordinator at PEARL Microfinance, as part of an occasional series on reflections from the field. Grace worked most recently with KF6 Bill Brick to continue to grow PEARL’s partnership with Kiva:

WORKING WITH A KIVA FELLOW

Working as a Kiva coordinator for a Microfinance Institution is an interesting and fulfilling obligation especially for one that has the interest and capacity to do so. In most cases we get the chance to do what we are supposed to do, interact with clients, take photos, write stories, and make these experiences known to the world through posting them on the website; yet again we keep our lenders posted on the progress of the businesses they have supported and how this affects the social lives of the entrepreneurs. It’s an interesting bit really.

Another interesting bit about working with Kiva is being in close relations with the Kiva Fellows that are assigned to the MFIs. Surely I wish to copy their courage because in almost all instances, these Ladies and Gentlemen come to the country only knowing the name of the Institution they are to work with plus knowing that they have to visit clients in some rural places but they are always together like they have been here for long and it’s only those in close contacts with the fellows that can explain this to the rest; Ooops!!

On the look of things, the duties of a Kiva Fellow are largely undefined to allow for maximum flexibility once they arrive at their respective MFIs. At least for the Kiva Fellows we have had so far, and probably wherever else they have been, our relationships with Kiva are as smooth as never before and we are grateful for this.  Unless you know that the Kiva Fellow came in yesterday, or last week, you might believe that they have been here long enough to know every one and everywhere even better than us the natives. I have come to believe that a neighbor or friend can know your home better by paying attention to those things that you might call minor, and will beat you at your game.

I have had a great experience working with Kiva Fellows; not to forget Douglas Buser, the first fellow to work with Pearl Microfinance from Kiva. I did not have an opportunity to work with him for long but the little time I had to interact with him opened my world to Kiva and what I had to do as I stepped in his shoes. Douglas is remembered by all our staff as a free and hard working person, with a connection to every body. After him came Adam and Genevieve, and as a person, their coming gave me a lot of thought like;

•    Will they cope with the situation at hand?
•    How about our transportation means of mostly using Taxis and motor cycles (boda bodas)?
•    moving deep in the villages in search for a story and a picture,
•    having late or no lunch due to the time factor plus
•    having a busy schedule through out the week for the whole time we have to work together
But time has made me believe that some people are born managers and will utilize the available resources for their comfort.

Working with Bill Brick, our recent fellow at Pearl Microfinance Ltd., has been a great opportunity for us as an organization and for me as a Kiva Coordinator, my personality and my career. Bill came with a lot of development, hard work, courage and commitment that we at Pearl feel more pleasured to have him around.

Bill met with Elda, Juliet, Grace and Lillian all Staff at Pearl Microfinance during one of the decentralization training programmes for Kiva.

Can you imagine, whenever we had to visit a group in the field, all he needed to know was which side of the country we had to take and in an instant his map that he would pull out from his bag would enable him familiarize with the journey and that was all.

In almost all our movements, I have heard to feel pity for the fellows especially on dusty bumpy roads, hot days, and even when it has to rain, though they like it, so they tell me. I remember one time we had to visit a group in Mpigi where we took a taxi from the New Taxi park. At first we enjoyed the comfort of a tarmac road, until a certain point when we reached Nateete through a dusty bumpy road until we reached Kasanje, our destination. Surely as a native, there are some things you consider normal and would not be bothered at all when they come your way not until when you realize that the person you are moving with is uncomfortable but again you are already set and surely you can not turn back.

I personally hate rain on my day out in the field but I came to realize that the rains brought a bright smile on Bill’s face hence washing away my fears of ever soaking a muzungu all smeared with dust, with no where to turn for shelter. Operating in such places is why Pearl Microfinance exists to provide financial services to the economically active population of Uganda and we take these services right to our Clients’ sitting rooms; unlike most Commercial Banks.

I will use this opportunity to commend my friends for the sacrifice they made working with Pearl Microfinance and me in beating deadlines to the point that I have had to make them move late in the night in the hands of over speeding taxi drivers; their ability to meet all their costs for the sake of the people who need financial services, and above all, we at Pearl Microfinance are grateful to Kiva for always availing an extra hand at no cost to help MFIs realize their visions. We shall always remain indebted to you.

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JD Bergeron

JD is responsible for ensuring that Kiva maintains and grows its core commitment to the disadvantaged beneficiary of its internet platform. He leads the development and execution of Kiva's social performance strategy, which entails measuring, providing judgment on and communicating the social performance of Kiva's operations including its MFI Field Partners and new product initiatives. After growing the Kiva Fellows Program into a critical contributor to Kiva's success and one of the largest and most sought after networks of microfinance volunteers in the world, he gladly accepted the challenge of developing the social performance practice at Kiva. JD brings over fourteen years of leadership and program development experience both in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors. Prior to Kiva, he built robust systems to achieve $3M as Director of Resource Development at ACCION International, served with the U.S. Peace Corps in a poor, rural region of Bulgaria, and held senior roles at a variety of early stage companies during periods of rapid growth. JD holds a BA in Russian Language and Comparative Literature from Washington University in Saint Louis.

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