As I take a moment to reflect after my whirlwind tour of the United States over the past two months to celebrate and promote April’s Month of Microfinance, I’m blown away by the students I encountered. The young people I met were exceptional and endlessly inspiring; already making commitments, designing projects and taking action to change our world for the better.
Projects included a mobile phone app that makes ultrasounds accessible and affordable in rural Africa. It wasn’t created by a tech company or financed by a millionaire. It was created by two young university students in Uganda working to decrease the nation’s staggeringly high maternal mortality rate and make prenatal care both portable and affordable.
At the Clinton Global Initiative’s youth conference, CGI U, I was honored to witness a very impressed Chelsea Clinton present an award to college student who is working to scale the distribution of little iron fish made by the Lucky Iron Fish Project. It’s a simple, inexpensive, accessible, and effective solution to anemia in Cambodia, discovered through the innovation of a young doctor changing the way people cook for the better.
I was so fortunate that bringing Kiva U to a wider audience also brought me to these outstanding young people and teachers whose positive impacts are helping shape our world. They are making education accessible to people living in slums in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. They are fighting for the rights, protection, and advancement of women and girls everywhere. They are bringing health and sanitation to areas where the simple act of drinking water has been life-threatening for generations.
Kiva and its education initiative, Kiva U, are proud to have been invited to play a role in each of these incredible events and to provide a platform through which anyone can take action to alleviate poverty and build a better world (with as little as $25 on Kiva or $5 on Kiva Zip). Not only are we happy to train, mentor, and support these young people and their teachers, but we are also happy to facilitate lending through Kiva so that those who might not be creating projects of their own can find and support entrepreneurs who are.
Kiva U came into existence because of the passion and innovation of young people and educators around the world who saw the potential of microfinance to change lives in an empowering and sustainable way. The Month of Microfinance gave us thirty days to celebrate this spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and to recognize the impact that young people are having, whether by designing their own solutions to end poverty and create a better world, or by having the smarts and hearts to support key world-changers who are.
I am at the end of my travels for now, feeling both exhausted and invigorated, but primarily inspired. I am inspired by the drive and daring of young people, by their intellect, their agility, and their awareness of their own agency to transform the world around them into a place. When I was a teenager, I was worried about what I now realize were such trivial things, and though I cared deeply about the world, I had no idea a kid from Oklahoma could impact it. The young people I met over these past few months not only know this, but they are doing it; they are alleviating poverty and improving lives one idea and one loan at a time.
Jessica comes to Kiva with a background in international education, local capacity building, and global engagement in sustainable poverty alleviation. She heads up Kiva’s education initiative to enhance understanding, involvement, and the mobilization of students and teachers around micro-finance. Prior to this, she worked in remote rural Kenya with Nuru International and has also worked with the U.S. Committee for Refugees & Immigrants, Mercy Corps, the IRC/Women’s Refugee Commission, UNHCR, the Centre for Refugee Research, and MSF (Doctors Without Borders). She holds a BA of International Politics from the University of Central Oklahoma/University of Leicester and an MSW in International Social Development from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Her overseas work has been mainly in East Africa and Southeast Asia, and she is conversational in French, Thai, and Kiswahili. She loves people and travel, bouncing between the wilderness and big cities, savoring amazing food, and regularly fawning over children and animals.