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Posts Tagged ‘kiva fellows’

[from ze fellows blog]

Upon arriving here at BRAC Sri Lanka in February, a brand new Kiva pilot partner, I was all ready to lace up my loan posting shoes and hit the ground running.  And my MFI was ready and waiting for me.  BRAC Sri Lanka decided to designate two districts as “Kiva” districts and upload borrowers from these regions to the website.  BRAC offers similar products within each region, so the “Kiva regions” were all set to have a reduced interest rate due to the fact that the money from Kiva to finance these loans would be arriving at 0%.  However I quickly learned how ambitious our initial posting targets were, especially in months 1 and 2 in the pilot phase on the website. (more…)

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[from this blog where we fellows write things]

Sometimes you think you are equipped to take on a difficult situation and use your experience and skills to dive in headfirst and solve it, or at least provide some help to improve upon the current status quo.  It may be a situation you’ve seen before, or one where you know your skill set or knowledge is applicable to improve it – at least if you were tackling this problem in a familiar and native environment.  And that’s exactly the problem right there, and why as a Fellow I’m having to throw some things out the window.

In October I came right from the overworked office life of public accountants bustling about in tall shiny skyscrapers.  We used and heard words like ‘will you pdf that to me?’, ‘draw up a process map’, or ‘run an amortization schedule in excel’ everyday.    Every employee was armed with a laptop, and within 6 months nearly everyone becomes an excel wizard.  Literacy in Microsoft Office, the internet, and all other things technology is completely assumed as a given to be in EVERYONE’s arsenal.  So naturally these tools get used a lot in day-to-day work, pretty much for everything we did.

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Well as many of you know I am continuing my duties as a kiva fellow in about a week, and somehow the opportunity presented itself to me to go to sriiiiiii lannnnnnka.  After a little initial hesitation, I started to become insanely excited for this opportunity as the country sounds like an absolutely beautiful place, and the people sound amazing as well.  Additionally, the country has gone through a ton in the last decade.

A devastating 2004 tsunami, which initiated lots of aid and subsequently development programs (ahem, microfinance and my reason for being there).  And as recently as May 2009, a nearly 30-year civil war was finally ended with the official ousting of the LTTE (tamil tigers rarr).  But it sounds like the underlying ethnic tensions within the country that fueled the marathon civil war are still largely unaddressed, and the country is in somewhat of a state of flux.  On top of that, just a week or so ago the country had their first presidential elections since the end of the war, with the incumbent president winning, despite some questions as to the validity of the whole process as well as some violence and several deaths in the weeks leading up to the citizens hitting the polls.  While I have just grazed the surface of the complicated and fascinating history of this former-colony and Buddhist/Muslim/Hindu/Christian country, I am beyond thrilled to get there and see everything it has to offer.

And perhaps most valuable of all in this whole fellows experience, will be the contrast that it presents with everything I’ve seen in Armenia.  Going from a landlocked, 98% Christian country in the Caucusus to a tropical island paradise coming out of a civil war will be a great lesson on the ‘global impacts’ of the provision of financial services.  Plus I’m excited for some beach time. And flip flops and shorts.  I haven’t worn my shorts since I left the states in October.  And I wore my flip flops outside the apartment twice in Yerevan, just quickly to take the trash out or something and got some awfully weird looks.  Boy do I love flip flops.

So with that, here comes round two, I’m incredibly excited, feeling a lot more confident arriving blind into a new country than I did with my Armenian arrival in October, and ready to help spreading the Kiva gospel in a brand new part of the world, and in a brand new kiva country for that matter to boot.

here goes KF10…….

the Sri Lankan flag. I'm a big fan of this flag

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[a quickie from the fellows blog]

By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

After making several visits to various borrower communities in the rural villages throughout Armenia, I started to notice a familiar figure emerge.  Each village seemed to have a mayor.  Not a mayor in the traditional, sash-wearing, top-hat donning, political scandal-causing sense, but a mayor of microfinance.

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[Hijacked From the Fellows Blog]
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By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

I have alluded to it several times in the past in some of my posts.  While maybe writing a sentence or mentioning a few words here or there, I think it deserves its own post because it’s turning out to be one of the central themes of what I have learned here about microfinance in Armenia.  The Human Factor.

Understanding your constituents is a vital part of doing business anywhere.  I think in microfinance this becomes especially important, specifically in regard to the customers.  Understanding their needs and capabilities is paramount.  While the good Samaritan in us may want to cater to a customer’s every desire, that usually isn’t the most prudent business decision.  This applies in microfinance, as many of the borrowers are applying for a loan for the first time, and may not have the instinctive financial literacy that privileged Westerners take for granted while growing up with allowances, to savings accounts, to that first credit card.  If you offered your clients whatever they wanted, they would probably take too many loans for too much money and likely be swimming in un-payable debt within a year’s time.  This isn’t any profound revelation, and it’s exactly the reason we have credit scores and screening of loan eligibility anywhere loans are made. (more…)

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[from, yes, you guessed it, the Fellows Blog]

By Brian Kelly, KF9, Armenia

The symbol of Karabakh, grandmother and grandfather

I wrote about a week ago before embarking on a trip to Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region southeast of Armenia known as being a conflict zone between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  I left in hopes of better grasping the political melee between the countries in the South Caucasus and how this plays into the Armenian identity.  Hopefully this would garner some insight into the role of microfinance in Armenia as part of my 4 month crash-course to this completely new part of the world. (more…)

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[from Ze Fellows Blog]


Not very good, at least in some of these Armenian villages I’ve been dropping in on lately.  Have you smelled a chicken coop, or a sty filled with 20 pigs lately? It’s tough to carry a conversation in there.  Visiting borrowers, at least in Armenian villages is quite the sensory overload.  You will smell more than you hoped to, probably taste something you never expected to, and perhaps hear a story that will inspire you to start your own apricot grove.

Atashat Borrower

Haaaayyyy. This will feed the animals throughout the winter, looks tasty

Kiva does an interesting thing.  It helps put stories to the often boringly academic discipline of microfinance.  Without the stories, Kiva would struggle to fund loans as quickly as it does.  They help to strike a chord inside of us that increases willingness to lend or donate because of a connection felt on a human level.  But you probably know all of that already, (or have read some of the chatter) and this spiel sounds all good and nice, but what does a loan really LOOK like.  What does it feel like, taste like up close?  How is access to credit really affecting the borrower?  Well that question is one of the unique opportunities that Kiva Fellows get to ask and hopefully attempt to answer. (more…)

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