Suzy Marinkovich, KF8 Peru & KF9 Bolivia
One of the most exciting things about being a Kiva Fellow is the opportunity to tell the untold stories of those so remote, so rural, and so ignored by the media. When there are six billion humans sprinkled across the world, the media has the unenviable task of picking and choosing stories that deserve local, national, or even global attention. As a result, we hear about unimaginable tragedies plaguing certain parts of the world — and often only the most painful and shocking stories are told. Ayacucho, Peru during the 1980s was simply a red zone, a place known only for the violence between the Peruvian military and maoist-terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). After spending four months in Ayacucho with partner FINCA Peru, my husband and I made our way overland to Bolivia. En route, we took a taxi in La Paz and as we chatted with the driver, he asked us where we’d been. When I told him, the next thing he said was: “Ayacucho, oh that’s where the terrorism is, Shining Path, why would you go there?” The reality is that the Shining Path has fragmented and exists only in the most rural parts of that region, and the estimated 70,000 people killed is a tragic echoing statistic from pre-1993. But he made a great point; often, the way we look at certain parts of the world is through the lens of their tragedies. As a result, we forget that there are innocent mothers, fathers, children, farmers, market vendors, beauty shop owners, cell phone vendors, and artisans that exist there, too. Their stories fall by the wayside, and sometimes we associate the conflict with the region or country itself, and we wouldn’t dare going there. It was so when two years ago I went to the D.R. Congo’s North Kivu region — its most volatile. I was scared to cross over the border, having only heard about the horrible atrocities and human rights violations occurring in the very border town I was entering through. But after walking across the border, I was surrounded by women carrying fruit in baskets on their heads, their babies on their backs, children in school uniforms, and dozens of smiling innocent faces. My hope is that through the wonderful story by PBS Frontline World on Kiva’s borrowers at FINCA Peru in Ayacucho, we can all begin to look beyond the lens of tragedy and see the talent and remarkable entrepreneurship hiding among some of the many innocents and those left behind.