Fellows Blog Posts by leahespicea

Aug 20, 2010 TG Togo

By Leah Gage, KF 10 in Ukraine & KF11 in Togo

Today is my last day as a Kiva Fellow. Kiva Fellows Class number 10 (or KF10) took me to Zaporozhye, Ukraine where I worked with Kiva’s field partner HOPE Ukraine; KF11 brought me here to Lomé, Togo, where I work with two different field partners, Microfund Togo and Women and Associations for Gain both Economic and Social, or WAGES. I can’t think of two countries more...

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Jul 21, 2010 TG Togo

By Leah Gage, Kiva Fellow in Togo

Less than a year ago, Kiva was taken to task by critics for not being as person-to-person (P2P) as it was claiming to be. But I think Kiva’s continued relevance in the field of grassroots development rests precisely on its continued ability to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. There are lots of examples of this; here are three.

In its efforts to present the realities of microfinance on the ground, Kiva allows lenders to learn not...

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Jul 9, 2010 TG Togo

By Leah Gage, Kiva Fellow in Togo

All throughout Togo, women use a traditional cloth called a pagne. Pagnes are beautiful, they come in every color and print you can imagine. They’re extremely useful as make-shift blankets, clothing, bags, towels… Yesterday while buying something a woman unwrapped her pagne skirt partway because that’s how she wrapped up her spare change. But perhaps most important for a young working mother is the use of a pagne to wrap her baby to her back.

Why would a young mother wrap her baby...

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Jul 2, 2010 TG Togo

By Leah Gage, Kiva Fellow in Togo

Our Mission: Find Monsieur Kokou Abalo, a farmer who lives outside of Agbélouvé, Togo, to this month’s repayment and complete a Kiva interview. Kokou Abalo has a loan from Kiva’s field partner Microfund Togo. He’s also the last borrower on my list with whom I have to do an interview.

We’d been down this road before… Two weeks ago I descended on Microfund’s Agbélouvé office and dragged the Agency Chief, the Loan Officer, and Agriculture specialist to walk 2.5 km in the rain to find Kokou’s farm… When we got there, Kokou...

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Jun 17, 2010

By Leah Gage, Kiva Fellow Togo

Me, one of the lucky few, with Kiva borrower Amé

As one of the lucky few allowed the opportunity to watch microfinance in action in Togo and Ukraine, I am increasingly convinced that microfinance is primarily a mechanism for social empowerment. Joseph Akogo, the director of Kiva’s field partner Microfund Togo, recently told me a story about a couple that benefited from microfinance. The wife was a client...

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May 3, 2010 UA Ukraine

By Leah Gage, KF10 Ukraine

In a few days, my Kiva Fellowship with Kiva’s field partner HOPE Ukraine will come to a close. In three months I’ve visited 10 different towns and villages throughout Ukraine and met about 40 Kiva borrowers. Not only is this essential to my work as a Kiva Fellow, but borrower visits are my absolute favorite part of volunteering for Kiva! And none of them would have been possible without my favorite Ukrainian ladies, my interpreters Kate, Masha, Nastya, Oksana and Alina (pictured below).

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Apr 22, 2010 UA Ukraine

By Leah Gage, KF10 Ukraine

When you make a loan to a Kiva borrower all the way in Kenya or Cambodia or Ukraine, do you ever think to yourself, “I wonder who took her picture?” Do you ever wonder, “Did someone ask her if she was okay with going up on Kiva?” Have you ever asked the question, “How am I getting repaid on this loan, anyway?”

The answer to all these questions, point to the Loan Officer, whose job it is to collect all the data you see on the Kiva Borrower Profile, and all the money you get back when your loan is repaid bit by bit. It’s even the job of the...

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Apr 6, 2010 UA Ukraine

By Leah Gage, KF10, HOPE Ukraine

A couple weeks ago HOPE Ukraine invited me to their bi-annual national conference to give a presentation about Kiva. This is the sort of thing Kiva Fellows dream about. Fourteen seated and listening loan officers, whose sole purpose is to sit and listen to you talk about Kiva?! Obviously I jumped at the chance to take my third night train trip to Kiev to generally explain the ever-confusing Kiva “concept” to these hard-working individuals.

My job was made more difficult by my utter lack of Russian language skills,...

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Mar 23, 2010 UA Ukraine

Yuryi and Tatyana Syomkin own an auto parts and body shop in the small village of Mikhailovka, Ukraine. They’re the only business in the area that can provide quality auto parts and vehicle repairs. Last month, the mayor of a neighboring village called Tatyana when their school bus broke down. The mayor asked if Yuryi would be willing to fix the bus on credit, the village government wouldn’t be able to pay the Syomkins for the job until later. In such a small community, Tatyana told me, it’s hard to say no when you’re asked for help. Not to mention when the mayor calls and asks you...

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Mar 12, 2010 UA Ukraine

Most of Kiva’s borrowers are located within the southern hemisphere, where problems like sleet storms and dzuds (check back Monday!) are nowhere in sight. But in Kiva’s EECA region (Eastern Europe and Central Asia), borrowers deal with a half year and maybe more of bitter cold and all the weather problems that come with it.

Would you buy oranges while standing in the snow?

Today I dragged my glamorous young interpreter, Alina, and loan officer Sergei to...

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