Apr 7, 2009 GT Guatemala

Long hours, low pay, angry barking dogs, collection calls, long motorcycle rides and even longer walks…………what on earth keeps these loan officers “in the saddle” 8+ hours a day, 6 days a week?  I interviewed two of ASDIR’s (Kiva’s partner bank in Totonicapan, Guatemala)  loan officers to try and find out.

I have to say I have been most impressed by the dedication, care and compassion of the  loan officers at this MFI. I would also bet  that most of Kiva’s 90+  field partners  have similar, committed loan officers—- clearly...

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Apr 7, 2009

The other day in the Mission district at Kiva headquarters in San Francisco, I converged with three micro enterprises, on just one corner. A young man selling fresh oranges, a Popsicle and ice-cream cart vendor, and another man with a tall stick of cotton candy- $2 each. Although this coincidence is quite novel, it does explain another, larger phenomenon. Perhaps the true impact of small businesses in the U.S. is underestimated. AEO, the association for Enterprise Opportunity, says that 87% of all businesses in the U.S. are microenterprises, businesses with fewer then 5 employees. As a...

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Apr 7, 2009 RW Rwanda

It’s easier to make sense of Rwanda if you erase the human element of the Genocide that happened here fifteen years ago. If we could just pretend it wasn’t actual people who perpetrated the one million unthinkable acts, it would simplify the dynamics of the country. Afterall, if we acknowledge that it was not only people but fellow Rwandese who held the machetes, we need to also see that they still exist—and not in an abstract way but in a day-to-day, walking down the street, drinking milk for breakfast, and sending children to school kind of way.

Many perpetrators of the 1994...

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Apr 6, 2009 NI Nicaragua

I recently picked up The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Director for the Study of African Economics at Oxford University and former director of Development Research at the World Bank. It has been a grim and simultaneously enlightening book, dubbed as a must-read by the New York Times and set to become a classic according to the Economist.

In a nutshell, The Bottom Billion states that our perception of development for the last forty years has...

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Apr 6, 2009 ID Indonesia

West Timor is the country equivalent of Robert Downey Senior. The usual reaction is “West Timor? I didn’t know there was a West Timor. But I’ve heard of East Timor so I suppose it makes sense”.

And indeed it does make sense, especially if you live here. West Timor, formerly a Dutch colony until it was un-clogged in 1945, is on an island towards the eastern side of Indonesia (Timur conveniently means “east” in Indonesian) but, it should be stressed, not the most easterly island as that is Papua and or West Papua (to clarify please see www.google....

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Apr 3, 2009 PY Paraguay

I told myself I’d avoid writing a blog entry that involved too much rumination on the meaning of microfinance. Oops.

Before I left for Paraguay, I had a long conversation with Cara Gutterman, the first Kiva Fellow assigned to Fundación Paraguaya. In addition to giving me some insight into the food (fine) and the weather (very, very hot), Cara told me that many of the borrowers she met during her time in Paraguay didn’t seem to be lifting themselves out of poverty; in fact, they didn’t seem to be the poorest of the poor, but instead were a group of...

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Apr 3, 2009 NI Nicaragua

Having spent two months in Bluefields, Nicaragua now, I have been struck by the near absence of two characteristics common in impoverished areas: illiteracy and child labor.  This statement is based purely on my own observation.  Unfortunately very little statistical data exists for this region.  Nevertheless, what I have seen here in terms of these two particular, yet intimately related, challenges to development is one of very few things that gives me hope and even a little optimism for future development here.

When interviewing recipients of Kiva loans, I often ask the client how...

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Apr 3, 2009 UG Uganda

Thank you for all the loans you make to Kiva. As a Kiva Fellow, I get the joy of receiving the gratitude that is truly meant for all of you.

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of meeting Florence Musola at a loan disbursement for the Balikyewunya Borrower’s Group. She was one of the first members to arrive at the meeting, so we were able to carry out a lengthy interview while the other members trickled in. It was fortunate that we got started early because Florence had lots to tell us about being a florist in Kampala, Uganda.

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Apr 1, 2009 PH Philippines

When you begin a fellowship, the end of it is the furthest thing from your mind.  When you end it, you can’t believe it’s over already.  And now at the end of it, I have plenty of cocktail party stories about traveling to remote villages, eating strange foods and learning exotic customs.  But they’re only meaningful because I didn’t experience them alone.

I can’t say enough about my great friends at CEV who made me feel as though it were my home.  Whether spending their day showing me around the island, bringing fresh fruit...
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Apr 1, 2009

It’s taken me some time to “get my feet on the ground” microfinance wise. So many distractions upon arriving in a new country, community, culture, family–not to mention learning my way around ASDIR, Kiva’s partner bank.  After almost 6 weeks here, this is my first post that focuses on microcredit.

I have visited almost 50 Kiva borrowers since arriving here, but these two stand out for me as exemplifying the role that “having access to credit”  can play in the lives of the hardworking and resourceful poor.

The first, is an interview...

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