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"If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living." - Gail Sheehy
This is my story:I have been working for a Kiva Field Partner in Colombia called COLFUTURO and have been fascinated by microfinance and Kiva's mission ever since. For months I've read the Kiva Fellows blog and wondered why can't that be me? I have been dreaming about creating a positive change and a socio-economic impact in the developing world and now I have the chance of making this happen. As a social entrepreneur I believe that there's no time like the present and now it's my turn to achieve that goal.
After having passed a very competitve selection process, on January 23rd I set sail for Kenya on a four month Kiva Fellowship. I'll have the incredible privilege to work directly with the Kiva Zip team in Nairobi. In a nutshell, Kiva Zip is an innovation of Kiva that will test new approaches and technologies on underserved populations through direct person-to-person microlending.
By the way, if you are wondering about the picture, that is me volunteering in Nepal at a Buddhist monastery last year. But, let's quit stalling and go back to the subject.
What is Kiva and Kiva Zip?Kiva is an non-profit with the goal of connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty. Anyone can log onto kiva.org, browse a portfolio of entrepreneurs in developing nations, and make a $25 loan to a small business. Kiva works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. One hundred percent of your loan is sent to these microfinance institutions, also called Field Partners, who administer the loans in their communities.
The Kiva Fellows program offers a rare opportunity to travel abroad and witness firsthand the impact and realities of microfinance. As a fellow, my role is to work with Kiva`s partners to increase transparency and spread technology and strategy at local trustees, document how entrepreneurs are using their loans, and relate these stories back to the Kiva community.
Where Do You Come In?In a few days I'll be leaving my job to travel alone in East Africa. The Kiva Fellows Program is an unpaid, volunteer position - no stipend or housing is provided - as Kiva expects its fellows to fundraise for the entire journey.
Fortunately, the past year I got to save some money that I can use to cover part of my fellowship expenses such as my flight ticket to Kenya and house rent. My other expenses are a bit tougher to come by. A rough budget estimate for my trip is below:
$1,100 food (110 days x $10/day)
$100 malaria pills
$300 transportation (buses, taxis, etc)
$300 mobile phone and internet