Rob

Fellows Blog Posts by Rob

Apr 28, 2010 CO Colombia

By Rob Packer, KF10 Colombia

When I first became a Kiva Fellow, I never imagined that one day I’d spend a cold, rainy afternoon in Bogotá discussing the merits of art-as-expression against art-for-profit with an aspiring artist and Kiva borrower.

The Nevera (the fridge as Bogotá is known to costeños for its chilly climate) has a very feel from Colombia’s Caribbean coast where I’m based. Partly this is because you need a coat and an umbrella; but it’s mainly because of Bogotá’s urban charm, which sometimes reminds me of European cities like Madrid; and the...

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Mar 26, 2010 CO Colombia

By Rob Packer, KF10 Colombia

Sometimes context is everything. If you met someone making muesli, granola and other fibre products in San Francisco or Berlin, you might not be all that surprised. But if you take away the context of coffee culture, media types and brunch and replace it with Barranquilla, a port town with an image problem on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, things start looking different. Oh, he’s also a microfinance borrower. Not exactly what you’d expect.

...

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Feb 4, 2010 CO Colombia

By Rob Packer, KF10, Colombia

The easy answer to this question is that there is a wide range of ways to annoy a Colombian. And after having been in Colombia for a month, a lot of them are starting to annoy me too.

One of these grievances is that Colombia must be one of the most consistently misspelt countries in the world. Having just come from Kyrgyzstan, which is part of a region of hard-to-spell countries, it came as a bit of a surprise that a lot of my friends seem to think I’m in Columbia, South Carolina, not South America. For the record, there are lots of...

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Jan 28, 2010 CO Colombia

By Rob Packer, KF10 Colombia

One of the things that attracts people to the Kiva Fellowship is the chance to visit places they would never visit otherwise. Over the past three weeks with the Fundación Mario Santo Domingo (FMSD), I’ve been to barrios in Bogotá, Barranquilla and Cartagena that I would never have visited otherwise. The alegría and friendliness of Kiva borrowers normally means that this is an overwhelmingly positive experience. However, there are other kinds of visits, often to poorer areas, and it’s this kind of visit that haunts you and enrages your sense of...

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Jan 22, 2010 CO Colombia

By Rob Packer, KF10 Colombia

Microfinance is commonly seen as the exclusive territory of non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While there are a lot of non-profits on the Kiva platform, there is also a fair number of for-profit MFIs and additionally, a lot of the non-Kiva money coming into microfinance is returns-driven (i.e. investment for profit). Whether it’s interest charged on a loan from a bank, the spread required for philanthropic financing by national or supranational governments, or the more apparent return sought by microfinance investment firms...

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Dec 23, 2009 KG Kyrgyzstan

By Rob Packer, KF9 Kyrgyzstan

My fellowship in Kyrgyzstan has come to an end and now I’m writing this in London before starting as one of pair of Kiva Fellows in Colombia: a first for Kiva. During training, I heard on the Kiva rumour mill that Kiva would be starting in Colombia a few months after training and thought it would be an amazing placement. Three months later with flights booked for Colombia in the New Year, I can feel the excitement building up as years of Colombia Dreaming finally come true.

Even though Kyrgyzstan is not a country I chose and Central...

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Nov 28, 2009 KG Kyrgyzstan

By Rob Packer, KF9 Kyrgyzstan

Islam in Kyrgyzstan feels different; more of a personal matter compared with other countries I’ve travelled in. While it’s probably an exaggeration when the Lonely Planet for Central Asia says that the Kyrgyz “limited it to what they could fit in their saddlebags”, there is probably some truth in the matter in a culture where kymyz, fermented mare’s milk, is a key cultural pointer and a toast with vodka is often not that far away, especially amongst the more Russified population of northern Kyrgyzstan. When you remember that the Kyrgyz...

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Nov 24, 2009 KG Kyrgyzstan

By Rob Packer, KF9 Kyrgyzstan

This is part one of a three-part post on remittances with forthcoming blogs by Meg Gray (KF9, Nicaragua) and Agnes Chu (KF9, Samoa).

In the US or Western Europe, we often think about remittances as something that people send from our home countries back to their families in Mexico, Ghana, the Philippines, Ecuador, and so on. Remittances and the hope of wealth are the one of the driving forces in all kinds of global migration, so it seems fitting that the subject of remittances is a recurring theme in the United Nations...

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Nov 5, 2009 KG Kyrgyzstan

By Rob Packer, KF9 Kyrgyzstan

As anyone who’s had a brush with Russian will tell you, going somewhere and using the Russian language to describe it is traumatic. It’s a nosy language I feel likes to keep tabs on me and wants to know all kinds of personal details like if I’m walking or running, driving or taking a plane, if I’ll be taking a rucksack or a trolley case, whether I come here often or don’t plan on coming back. I’ve been doing these mental acrobatics for the past month, and although the pleasures of the Russian language should carry a health warning, the more...

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Nov 1, 2009 KG Kyrgyzstan

By Rob Packer, KF9 Kyrgyzstan

In the middle of October I spent a week away from the Bishkek office of my MFI, Mol Bulak Finance, to see microfinance in action in their Balykchy branch. Part of the training as a Kiva Fellow is to complete an online course from the United Nations Development Program on microfinance, which seemed to tell me continuously that microfinance is a low-margin, high-cost business. No matter how many times this message is drilled into me, it still comes as a shock.

The town of Balykchy sits at the start of Lake Issyk-Kul, the world’s second-...

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