Apr 11, 2008 GH Ghana

I’ve been back in Chicago for about 2 weeks now and have had time to sit and digest my Kiva Fellow experience. Going into this I tried to keep a completely unbiased and open-mind about microfinance. I’m a huge supporter of microfinance, but I have heard critics argue that it does little to actually lift people out of poverty. So I tried to take my opportunity to see first hand how it affects borrowers.

During my 2-month stay in Cape Coast, Ghana I had the privilege to meet over a hundred borrowers successfully running their own businesses. I heard stories of individuals...

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Apr 11, 2008 MZ Mozambique

I’ve been working with Hluvuku in Mozambique for a month now and had the chance to live for at least a week in 3 different branches (including the headquarters). I was lucky enough to live the day-to-day life of a small branch office with only one loan officer and to witness a transition of portfolio, as this loan officer, Paula, was moving back to a bigger branch and a recently promoted 1st year loan officer, Luciano, was taking over her portfolio. By than it was crystal clear the huge importance of a loan officer at the microfinance world: without their...

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Apr 10, 2008 GH Ghana

I’ve visited over 100 clients in the past two months and one of the most common responses to “how are you going to use this loan” is “I’m going to buy in bulk.”   At first, it appeared to me that perhaps this is a common impulse to overstock inventory so a customer never walks away empty-handed.  But, I was quick to learn that this bulk purchasing phenomenon is not driven by concern about product supply but rather inventory cost.   Here, in Ghana, there is an omnipresent concern over creeping inflation.  And with Zimbabwe in the news this...

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Apr 10, 2008 UG Uganda

Almost everywhere we go it feels like we’re the centre of attention. Most often we’re the only white people around amongst a sea of locals. The attention isn’t bad – it can’t be classed as harassment like we receive in India, Morocco and certain other countries – but we’re aware that all eyes are on us. We’re just different – we look different, we move differently, we wear different clothes, we sound different, we’re doing different, possibly interesting things.

For the small kids, as we walk through their small...

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Apr 10, 2008 UG Uganda

 

We entered the wooden hut that served as the meeting room for Rubaga Women’s Group, desperate for some respite from the Kampala sunshine. It was much cooler inside, despite the absence of windows and surprisingly, the thin gaps between the planks of wood let in a cool breeze. So we sat down and were grateful that the women were able to make enough room for us to squash between them. Our sense of personal space has been altered since we came to Uganda and we no longer feel uncomfortable to be pressed up against smiling strangers on buses, in...

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Apr 7, 2008 KH Cambodia

This is why I love my office…

The other day at work, my colleagues found out I have a cell phone.  They immediately took turns getting my digits- wanting my phone # ‘just because.’  Some who are hesitant to use English will call and hang up as a “just wanted to say ‘hi’” gesture.  Better yet, others will leave SMS messages.

 

For the past week, every night, I’ve gotten a goodnight text, tucking me into bed if you will. 

 

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Apr 7, 2008 KH Cambodia

Just one epic of a post to depict a day in the field:

 

Only after experiencing the lows can you fully appreciate the highs.  While everyday in the field is an incredible experience, some days are absolutely exhausting- mentally.  The 8 hours in 90 degree sun dressed like I’m observing purdah is fine… off-roading on a moto… dodging trees and making u-turns in 6 “lanes” of traffic… breathing like I’m on a ventilator through my helmet when sand storms of...

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Apr 6, 2008 KH Cambodia

Only a few weeks into my fellowship in Cambodia, some things are already unmistakably clear. The Maxima staff, who I feel very fortunate to be working with, are an extremely dedicated, close knit family with an excellent client rapport and a visible love for their work. Because they love their work, they love Kiva; as a small operation with one branch (the smallest MFI in Cambodia), the impact of funding through Kiva is huge. The interest-free loans help them fund and service more clients than would otherwise be possible, and to Maxima, service is everything. The MFI...
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Apr 3, 2008 WS Samoa

I heard the claims before I arrived: “Samoans are exceptionally friendly.” It sounded simple enough; they must live with a tattooed smile and provide a helping hand to those in need. But, as I discovered, it is much more. Samoans have what I’ll call an aggressive friendliness. As I walk around town, the never-timid local Samoan will unfailingly pepper me with questions within the first couple minutes. All questions that I undoubtedly would be unwilling to answer a stranger in the US. And was quite reluctant to answer my first couple days here.

...

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Apr 2, 2008 UG Uganda

Man, it seems like the Ugandan fellows have taken over the blog! I probably should wait my turn but I wanted to tell you about an encounter I had last Sunday.

One of the great sites in Kampala is the Kasubi tombs where the Buganda kings are buried, and so on Sunday in search of touristy adventure, I went.

It’s not a very big place overall, about the size of a baseball field (to use a comparison comfortable to me), with a few huts in it. The largest is where the kings are buried behind a fig bark cloth hung from the ceiling in a place referred to as the forest. I had to...

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