Sweet 16 has never been sweeter. 🙂 Last week, I was humbled and catapulted over the moon when I found the following news in my inbox:
Congratulations and welcome to the Kiva Fellows Program!
I definitely did a little dance on the couch and then shared the news with my family that the Kiva Fellows Program had accepted me as a trainee in their 16th class (KFP 16)! Now, you might be curious about what the fellows program is, why I pursued it, and what it means in the larger scope, so first I’ll give you some back story.
I fell in love with microfinance and using economic tools to fight poverty towards the end of my college career at UC Davis. I remember going through endless supply and demand charts, game theory scenarios, and talks of guns, butter, and steel without feeling a hint of connection towards my focus of study, economics. One of my last econ classes, International Economic Development, however, introduced me to a cool concept that proved to help alleviate poverty: microfinance. The lesson started with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and introduced me to Muhammad Yunus, who had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I was immediately struck with an “aha!” moment after reading Yunus’ “Banker to the Poor,” and researched everything I could about microfinance: where it was taking place, how it was happening, what were the challenges, and how I could fit into it all. I couldn’t wait to get my feet wet.
Shortly after graduating, I heard about Kiva through friends and found the fellows program online. I immediately found the perfect opportunity to work with MFI’s all over the world and further Kiva’s work by giving more entrepreneurs access to microfinance and helping them pull themselves out of poverty. “Holy mackerel,” I thought to myself, “I need to do this.” While keeping this dream in my back pocket, I pursued a career in fundraising with an amazing microsavings nonprofit, EARN, where I honed my skills in data management, organization, project management, and more, which teed me up for this opportunity in so many ways. And after a few years rolled by, started the detailed and extensive application process, interviewed, and here I am, a trainee for the 16th KFP class. Stoked, a bit nervous, but extremely pumped!
What is Kiva?
Kiva is the world’s first peer-to-peer micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.
What is a Kiva Fellow?
The Kiva Fellows Program is a 4-month long unpaid, volunteer based position designed to increase Kiva’s impact around the world. The Kiva Fellow works directly with one of Kiva’s partner microfinance institutions (MFIs). The Kiva Fellow is an integral part of the Kiva Team, acting as Kiva’s eyes and ears in the field and helping to extend limited resources to maximum effect. The Kiva Fellow fosters the connection between the MFI, Kiva and the lender with their fieldwork and communication.
What exactly will I be doing?
A lot of everything! The main purpose is to work with the MFI on using Kiva’s platform, meeting with entrepreneurs and collecting stories for Kiva’s website, generating content to help share my experience with all of you via photo/video, and blogging on the Kiva Fellows Blog. Here is the list of a Kiva Fellow’s core responsibilities:
Work closely with local staff to maximize the host MFI’s partnership with Kiva
- Transfer skills to MFI staff on Kiva processes, policies and best practices
- Observe, learn and document the MFI’s operations and its use of the Kiva platform, making recommendations as appropriate
- Assist the host MFI to regularly collect and post borrower profiles for funding onto the Kiva website
Facilitate connections between Kiva borrowers and lenders
- Interview Kiva borrowers to assess loan impact, verify data, and gather information for journal updates
- Develop innovative ways to facilitate connections via creative journaling, photographs, YouTube video and other means
- Write a blog entry every two weeks on the Kiva Fellows Blog
Support Kiva’s product, marketing and organizational development
- Provide updates and feedback through field reports and a final end-of-fellowship report
- Utilize individual skill sets to complete special projects for Kiva as appropriate
When will it take place and where?
Kiva’s on it! The talented program staff goes through an extremely detailed placement process with each individual trainee, based on his/her skill set and the MFI’s needs. Kiva told me I’d tentatively be placed in East Asia/Pacific.
My travel dates depend on the needs of the MFI(s) I will be matched with. Tentatively leaving around Aug 20-Sept 3, 2011 (gosh, I keep forgetting how soon that is!), and will be returning no sooner than mid-December.
How is it funded?
This is where YOU, my generous network of friends, family, and colleagues, come in! J I have to fundraise for my trip (this includes: flights, housing, daily living costs, etc.), so expect to receive invites to events and campaigns to help me reach my fundraising goal. My estimate target is at $6k at the moment, but once I find out where I’m placed, I will update and post my budget on this blog to give everyone a clearer idea of how much I will need to fundraise.
What am I the most excited about?
In one word: everything! Exploring new surroundings, meeting amazing people, working with borrowers and helping the MFI with whatever they need, understanding new and different perspectives (and hopefully developing a few of my own), tasting new cuisines, putting up with new weather, making new connections with local folks and my class of fellows, and overall, stepping outside of my comfort zone.
So.. what’s next?
Well, I’ll use this blog to update all of you on my placement, departure date, fundraising opportunities, and more. My Fellows training will take place Aug 15-Aug 19 in San Francisco, and I will be off to my location shortly thereafter. Once I’m on the ground as a fellow, I will be using this space to share my experiences and adventures with you all! So make sure to stay in touch. 🙂