Mar 20, 2009 LB Lebanon

Beirut was recently ranked on top of a New York Times list of places to visit in 2009. The reason, luxury hotels, the nightlife, and Lebanon’s vast historic heritage spanning centuries of civilization. That’s not the Lebanon I saw last week during my first field visit. Instead, I went to the southern suburbs of the city, also know as “the suburb” (in Arabic, El-Dahyeh).

My MFI, Ameen, was kind enough to arrange for me to be driven to one of two of its branches in Burj Barajneh where I met the loan officer. I was grateful to be driven here since as soon as we entered the area I...

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Mar 19, 2009 NI Nicaragua

I have been working with ADIM in Nicaragua for just over one month now, enough time to get a pretty advanced rough picture of how this organization works. It has been an interesting four weeks, the first two of which found me frantically trying to keep up with the high-speed pace and lively Spanish chatter of Javier Flores, the organization’s Credit Manager, who is also responsible for managing much of ADIM’s relationship with Kiva. I also found myself with a bit much downtime, which, ironically, stressed me out since I had so much to do during the three months I would be in Nicaragua. We...

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Mar 19, 2009 RW Rwanda

I’ve always been curious about what happens when microfinance clients open businesses in places where there is very little capital. Many operate small shops of household necessities but the placement of such stores is generally based more on proximity to home than a strategic evaluation of which part of town is most profitable. So how do they cope if their customers can’t afford to buy anything? Last week, I got my answer: credit.

Pen and Paper: How to issue credit, the old...

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Mar 18, 2009 PE Peru

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?-it’s the too huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

-On the Road by Jack Kerouac

No quote better summarized my feelings when I left the Bay Area to start my fellowship with Kiva in Peru.  This video is a glimpse into my crazy adventure...

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Mar 17, 2009 BJ Benin

Africa. Bénin.

It shattered my worldview, changed my perspective on life. It nearly undid me. I was at times stupefied by heat and pollution, tongue-tied by the language barrier, unable to process basic thoughts, uncomfortable from stomach ailments, so overwhelmed by poverty that I could not imagine how to improve the quality of life. But I was also fascinated by the many cultures, bonding with friends of every nationality, living each day full of adventure as it were my last, traveling, collapsing into bed bone-...

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Mar 16, 2009 SV El Salvador

The leftist candidate Mauricio Funes won El Salvador’s presidential election last night, ending 20 years of rule by the rightist ARENA government. Funes’ party the FMLN had developed out of a Marxist inspired guerilla movement that opposed ARENA’s government 'during the country’s gruesome civil war in the 1980’s. While FMLN supporters took to the streets last night, riding into the capital on beat-up pickup trucks packed with red-shirted...

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Mar 15, 2009 UG Uganda

In a previous post, I mentioned that many clients of microfinance pledge real items not just their reputations as collateral on their loans. (Please see “A message from Uganda” for a more in depth discussion of the idea.) A comment was made that asked a few interesting questions. I started to directly reply on the post, but realized that the answers were long and that they might be interesting to others.

(As a side note — those of us who are writing on this Blog love hearing your comments on our postings. Please comment if you are so inspired, especially if you have...

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Mar 15, 2009 KH Cambodia

Being a Kiva Fellow in Southeast Asia you meet many small business owners. Some of these business owners sell what I like to call “culinary adventures”. So as not to offend people, you get a chance to try many of the dishes. Over the course of my seven months, I’ve discovered after a while to stop asking what it is, and just try it. Some have left their impressions on me though, and I thought I’d share them with you. Let’s see, in Cambodia you have fried tarantula and various bugs such as beetle, cricket, and bee larva. The most delicious and famous ones come from the Kampong Cham region,...

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Mar 13, 2009 GT Guatemala

It’s almost impossible to find a family in this little town of Nimasac (in the western highlands of Guatemala) who has not had a son or husband go to the U.S. to find work.

Boys often leave when they are teenagers (16 or so) and take the perilous route to the U.S. through Mexico, by enlisting the services of a “coyote” (immigrant smuggler)—which is a very risky proposition. If they do make it to the U.S. alive, they arrive in large cities (Houston and New York seem to be the favorites here) where they connect with acquaintances or friends who are already there. Many...

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Mar 13, 2009 NI Nicaragua

Preface: I recently posted a blog describing some of the unique challenges people in Bluefields must deal with.  I’d like to encourage those of you that haven’t already seen it, to first click here to get a bit of context before reading this post.   


Microfinance faces some unique challenges in Nicaragua, and especially in the southern Atlantic Coastal region.  This is my third placement as a Kiva Fellow (...

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