By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

“Life definitely just got a whole lot better.”  A simple few words, but ones that perfectly represent where I stand a week after completing training for the Kiva Fellows program.  Said by fellow KF9 Alana, this statement resonated with me as we headed to our graduation dinner.  49 of us had just completed a long week of training in all things Kiva, and in these short 5 days I realized how lucky I was to be a member of this 9th class of Kiva Fellows.

Fall 2009's must have accessory: KF9 Digital Belt Buckle

Fall 2009's must have accessory: KF9 Digital Belt Buckle

Last week’s training was overwhelming to say the least – the community and caliber of relationships I established was completely unpredicted.  I thought I would go in and learn about my host MFI and the nuts and bolts of microfinance, which I did. But what I really came away with was a family of Fellows, a group that will be my first level of support out in the field, and the few to truly understand my fellowship experiences, if even a continent away.

I was floored by the quality of the people I spent five days with at Kiva HQ – a group with backgrounds as diverse as the countries we are headed to, but sharing a common drive to do something positive for the world.  I was surprised by the amount of people who – like me – had left their jobs (and good ones too), with no set plan for the future.  Yet everyone seemed to have a strong assurance that this was the right path, and that despite giving up a salary, this was absolutely the right thing to be doing with their lives.

I’m proud to be embarking upon a new chapter with this group, and I hope to identify with them for a long time.  It is a group of extremely talented, motivated, compassionate people who I enjoyed spending 15 hours a day with, a group I reluctantly realized I will not see together in one place ever again.  Coming to this realization towards the end of the week was difficult, as I tried to maximize my time with everyone I had just met and had to say goodbye to in a matter of days.

As training fades into the past and we are now officially “Kiva Fellows,” I hope to keep that Kiva Love fresh in my mind and draw on the enthusiasm I’m feeling now when I’m trudging through snow and fighting below-zero temperatures in Armenia (I’m looking at you Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia KFs).  I will remember last week when I realize how microfinance can fall short, when I cannot communicate as easily as I hoped with my host MFI or the borrowers, and when I question what the hell I’m doing with no salary, a case of diarrhea, and an awful attitude.  These are the times where I will look back on my week in San Francisco and other KFs as a reminder of why I’m here, and why 49 others have willingly dispersed themselves across the globe at great sacrifice to help empower poor entrepreneurs as well as find out something about themselves.

As a good friend told me, while it may feel like the training buzz is beginning to wear off, in reality it is just settling in, to be drawn on at a later time.  The reassurance that “life just got a whole lot better” is validation that what I’m doing is absolutely the appropriate next step, and it’s a feeling of reassurance I haven’t experienced in a while.

So while I’m a little bummed to have said goodbye to the 9th class of Kiva Fellows, I know with utmost confidence that I will be revisiting last week when I’m feeling not so rosy in about 2 months time.  Being able to share our stories on this blog as well as with each other is going to be exactly what helps me get through the tough times, and I’m pretty confident that the good ones will speak for themselves.  Thanks KF9…

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