One of my local friends came to me one day… “Mr. Montano I need to talk to you”. Later that day he told me he had to send money to his mother and had other expenses but payday which was still a few days away. We agreed on the terms, half with the current month’s pay and the other half with the following month’s pay; both at the end of the...Continue Reading >>
Stories from Guatemala
by Gustavo Visalli, KF14, Guatemala
Commutes are a part of life. In college I lived in a town with more bikes than people, so I had a relaxing bike ride to class every day. Back home in San Francisco I had the pleasure of reading about my World Series Champion Giants on the train to work. Easy transport increases our range. This allows us to access more resources with little effort (even those of us without cars).
Daily travel is not so simple here in Guatemala. It is a significant barrier for many looking for access to resources such as food markets or...Continue Reading >>
By Gustavo Visalli, KF14, Guatemala
“Esto no es Guate, ni Xela. Aquí las calles son seguras. (This is not like Guatemala City, or even Xela. The streets here are safe).” My wonderful host in the village of Cojxac is reassuring me of the safety of the streets at night. It is my first month as a Kiva Fellow in the region of Totonicapán (aka Toto), Guatemala. I secretly doubt my host’s words as I nod, since the ominous streets outside seem like the perfect place for a good old fashioned mugging. These prejudicial thoughts first came up as my chicken...Continue Reading >>
I have written a lot about the auxiliary services offered by microfinance institutions in Guatemala. One blog, Going Above and Beyond, reflected ASDIR´s additional services from insurance to bill pay, and my last blog, Good Medicine, spoke a little about FAPE´s new medical services program. Why do you care? As other Kiva Fellows have stated, microfinance is not the silver bullet that will knock out poverty, it is merely the start. This being said, it will be microcredit coupled with access to basic services such as health, insurance, savings, and education...Continue Reading >>
For most, take your medicine! conjures up negative images of spoonfuls of cherry cough syrup or days spent in bed with the flu. For the clients of one microfinance institution, FAPE, based out of Guatemala City, Guatemala, it is something much sweeter. FAPE recently teamed up with the Canadian Government and an NGO “Gems of Hope” to provide low cost medicine and medical consultations to its clients as well as free health education.
How it works. A Gems of Hope team arrives to the village bank meetings with FAPE´s loan officer. After loan repayments are collected, one member of...Continue Reading >>
I was impressed. When I first stepped into ASDIR´s office, I was confronted with half a dozen banners listing the details of all the services they offer. The first banner was for Seguros Columna: an insurance agency that ASDIR pays for to offer life insurance to its clients (essentially, if a client dies, ASDIR cancels the loan: a great service for the family of someone in poverty). A second and third advertised a service to send and receive remittances through Western Union and Sigue. A fourth advertised saving services through G & T Continental (microfinance institutions can´t...Continue Reading >>
I started this blog on a scrap of paper during a group visit. I started writing because, well, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn´t quite sure what my place in the conversation should be or even what my facial expressions should be. And this wasn´t the first visit I felt uncomfortable on that day.
I wanted to give Kiva lenders updates, journal postings, on a couple of lenders that had fallen behind in their payments…way behind. And now, the loan officer, the operations manager and I were at their homes or their places of business trying to figure out why this had happened, and how...Continue Reading >>
Some days start out like all the others, and let you take a deep breath before spiraling out of control.
Today was one of those days. Waking up, eating slowly and enjoying my coffee, taking pictures of the sun rising over the rusted rooftops and avocado trees while waiting for my ride to park in front of the hostel honking. It was 7:20 am when he finally arrived. We would sit in traffic for 30 minutes and arrive at the office right before eight. Typical. Like every day last week.
But today, we stopped at a gas station so my ride could run to the ATM before work. Locking...Continue Reading >>
“Again it might have been the American tendency to travel. One goes, not so much to see but to tell afterward” John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley. As a Kiva Fellow, I travel differently. I have too. Instead of trying to throw myself into those great stories that I could tell over and over to friends—about the times when I sipped mate with Argentine gauchos on the Pampa or hiked Machu Picchu in the pouring rain, I am looking for a different story.
If asked before I got here, I don’t know that I could have put a finger on what that story would be. Staring my first day at...Continue Reading >>
Have you read cartoons before understanding what they really meant? Ignorance is bliss from Calvin & Hobbes is definitely one of those cartoons for me. I worked as a design engineer before and in many occasions I thought I was asking a yes/no question but it never turned out to be that simple. You have to approach problems knowing the basic principles, look carefully at the details, make decisions and learn from your mistakes. As an engineer, the product of my work was an object and I needed technical knowledge; as a Kiva Fellow, I...Continue Reading >>