Fellows Blog Posts by JohnGwillim

Aug 23, 2011 CL Chile

Kiva Fellows come from a vast variety of backgrounds, both in regards to their professional experience and hobbies.  When the Kiva Fellows Program Team is trying to decide where to send people they evaluate what MFIs would benefit most from that fellow’s individual experience and skills, and also what special projects they can work on to benefit Kiva’s mission and/or the MFI.  As part of my fellowship I was asked to help add to Kiva’s library of borrower images, which are used for marketing and communications purposes by Kiva.  With camera in hand I have set out to take...

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Aug 12, 2011 CL Chile

How should a microfinance institution (MFI) measure performance?  Should they focus solely on the most common method, financial performance, or are things like client retention rates and social indicators also important?  While traditional financial indicators, like client repayment rate, are important in a drive to create a sustainable MFI, they do not measure the entire success of an MFI.  Even client retention is not a perfect measure; are clients continuing to use services because they are good, or driven to by necessity to make payments on spiraling indebtedness?  Measuring social...

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Jul 15, 2011 CL Chile

Early this week I had to the opportunity to go out into the field with Kiva staff member Nicolas Lafaye (Portfolio Manager for South America) as he visited Fondo Esperanza in Santiago, Chile.  This day gave me the opportunity to focus on two of my favorite parts of being a Kiva Fellow: talking with clients and taking photos.  With camera in hand we headed out to two communities in the Santiago area, visited clients in their homes and businesses, and attended a Communal Bank meeting.  Here are 3 of my favorite photos from the day, as well as some of what I learned about their businesses...

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Jun 30, 2011 CL Chile

This is the question I asked myself as I arrived in May at Fondo Esperanza (FE).  After spending 3 months working with Fundación Mario Santo Domingo (FMSD) in Barranquilla, Colombia as part of KF14, I saw first hand how successful individual loans could be in helping people start and grow their own businesses. FMSD had used group lending in the past (and still has a small number of group loans), but found individual loans worked better for their clientele.  Fast forward to my arrival at FE in Santiago, Chile: FE dropped individual loans in favor of communal banks about 9 years ago and is...

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Apr 13, 2011 CO Colombia

Merys María Mejía Velasquez is always one of my favorite clients to see in the offices of Fundación Mario Santo Domingo (FMSD); I am always greeted with a huge and a warm welcome spewing with energy.  Merys is a long time client of FMSD and has recently taken her first loan through Kiva to buy products to continue to expand her bakery.  She enthusiastically attends the free workshops offered by FMSD and is constantly doing all she can to continue to grow her business.  Unless you really got the chance to ask Merys about her history it is unlikely you would ever guess that she was displaced...

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Mar 28, 2011 CO Colombia

What happens to Kiva Fellows once they finish their placement and get released back into the world? This is a question I have asked myself many times as I look ahead beyond my placement in Colombia–luckily I will be part of KF15 and won’t have to make those decisions for a few months! Many of the current fellows will be heading to grad school in the fall, going back to their old jobs, or looking for new jobs in international development. But how many of us get the chance to continue on in the world of microfinance?

I had the opportunity to host Adam Grenier, part of...

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Mar 7, 2011 CO Colombia

Forty days before Easter marks a grand occasion in many countries across the world – Carnival. We’re composing this blog during a couple of hours of well-needed downtime from the second largest of them all: Barranquilla, Colombia.

Outside of Carnival season Barranquilla is a relatively ordinary city which doesn’t tend to  attract the throngs of tourists that flock to its beautiful coastal neighbours such as Cartagena and Santa Marta. However, for one long weekend of the year there is no more popular tourist attraction than Barranquilla. Hotels are booked out months in advance...

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Feb 24, 2011 CO Colombia

Kiva’s mission, to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty, is implemented in the field by partnering with microfinance institutions around the world.  All of Kiva’s Field Partners have a strong mission to alleviate poverty and expertise in doing so through the use of microcredit–they are the legs of Kiva that get the money loaned into the hands of the entrepreneurs.  Yet, in many cases the projects and mission of our Field Partners expand beyond microfinance–they are dedicated to enriching the lives of their clients in many ways.  A few...

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Feb 7, 2011 CO Colombia

The Neilsen ratings haven’t been released for Super Bowl XLV yet, but from the early reports it may have been a record viewership in the United States with well over 100 million people tuning in.  As a big American football fan I thought it would be fun to gather some stories about the interest (or lack thereof) in the Super Bowl from Kiva Fellows posted around the world.  Here’s what we found!


I purposely scheduled a two hour trip from Barranquilla to see some of Fundación Mario Santo Domingo’s projects in Cartagena this weekend as...

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