This is my first post from the field, and, unfortunately, I’m not writing to share an inspiring microfinance success story or even a heartwarming cross-cultural anecdote, as I was hoping I would be. I am writing to tell about a conversation that threw an uncomfortably bright spotlight directly on the basis of my being here in Africa, and the basis of Kiva’s mission itself. I am stationed in Togo, a tiny West African country that ranks the 13th poorest in the world, with a GDP per capita in 2007 of $167. I am living with a Togolese family, and there is a 26-year old guy named...Continue Reading >>
Having researched Tajikistan’s economy prior to arriving here, I had a difficult time reconciling the numbers. It has a literacy rate of 95% and fairly high costs of goods like a developed country yet exceptionally low per capita incomes of some $340 similar to those of the poorest in the world. How does an educated population earn so little yet pay for goods clearly beyond its reach?
It is the Soviet legacy which has left most of the population over the age of 30 with a reasonably good education. Mothers and fathers subsisted on moderate civil servant salaries at the...Continue Reading >>
What does an African country do in the aftermath of election violence in its neighbors, including Kenya and Zimbabwe? In the case of Ghana, about to hold its presidential elections in December, it takes the mere thought of election violence very seriously and starts a country-wide campaign against it.
Africa is a very big place, but in some ways despite its vast landscapes, cultures, and governments, there is a sense in Ghana that it is all connected. African wear and television channels like TV Africa connect them together and create a sense of...Continue Reading >>
I wanted to share two really beautiful events from the past week: celebrating the election and attending my first Tajik wedding.
The U.S. Election
Contrary to the excitement that most were feeling on election day, I was feeling lousy. Here we were, on the edge of something truly great, and I was not able to participate. Of all the elections in all of the world, why did I have to miss this one?
Tajikistan is 10 hours ahead of the East Coast, so it was fairly obvious that Obama...Continue Reading >>
Kerti Moses and his wife Endang had one of the biggest homes I had seen in almost fifty visits to DINARI Foundation’s clients. The exposed concrete foundation elevated the house above the nearby dwelling of one of the couple’s workers. The entire floor was covered in big ceramic tiles printed like green marble, and the white walls still had a lingering freshness in parts. Inside was a big room with high exposed rafters and smaller bedrooms adjoining it. The main room was empty save for a table in one corner and a TV against the far wall....Continue Reading >>
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Poverty is a riot of inconsistencies and mysterious shades of complexity. Today, after a long week in the field, I’m wondering how anyone could possibly work their way out of the despair they inherited with birth when so many forces conspire against them, especially women.
Poverty is defined as a condition of unacceptable material deprivation, according to a particular society’s standards of what’s acceptable and what’s not. Poverty is widely acknowledged to be a multi-dimensional condition; however most efforts to measure its extent and...Continue Reading >>
I’m a new Kiva Fellow volunteering with Maxima, a microfinance institution (MFI) headquartered in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. I arrived in Phnom Penh about three weeks ago, and had the luxury of a week to acclimate before starting at Maxima.
My arrival coincided with a visit to Cambodia by Kiva co-founder Matt Flannery and Kiva Chief Software Architect Zvi Boshernitzan, who were making a field visit to see how Kiva works in the field for partner MFIs and for Kiva borrowers. I went straight from the airport to a dinner at a Phnom Penh restaurant with Matt, Zvi, and...Continue Reading >>
Veronica was more than just the small provisions shop owner across the street from where I used to live in Ghana’s capital city of Accra. She was more than just a woman full of life and smiles who I would often visit with on my way home from work. She was a friend, one I even visited at home to say goodbye to when I left. So when I spend my first five days in Ghana back in the neighborhood where I lived for two months last year while working at a popular Ghanaian newspaper, one of the things on my to-do list was to see Veronica.
I walked down the street where I used to live, down...Continue Reading >>
After weeks of mental and physical preparation, I have finally arrived in Sierra Leone. My Kiva Fellowship brings me to Salone Microfinance Trust (heretofore referred to as “SMT”). Over the next few months, I will share on-the-ground insight of Sierra Leone, educate on SMT’s business model and convey stories about SMT’s wonderful employees. But first, I’d like to share a story about my arrival to Makeni.
I can immediately feel comfortable in any setting when music...Continue Reading >>