Video blog: The heart of Kiva

Mindblank! Recently I have been at a loss for words, and haven’t felt so compelled to share anything on the blog. Instead I decided to focus my efforts on producing a video of my time in the field as a Kiva fellow. One of the most amazing parts of being a Kiva fellow is the beautiful meetings you have with microfinance clients. In these sessions you have the opportunity to chat with borrowers about anything and everything. At the end of an interview we all commonly ask borrowers what are their hopes and dreams for the future.

This video compiles footage of 6 months as a kiva fellow in the Philippines and Uganda, interviewing over 50 microfinance clients. Each business was different, but the purpose of these businesses were often the same. All of these clients were happy that with their loan, and increased business profits, they could send their children to school, to support their family, and to improve their living.  To many this is a massive acheivement.

In this way microfinance is not only empowering individuals from the developing world, but also giving their children the opportunity to dream, and to think big. I believe the real benefits of microfinance will be seen in future generations of children who were educated from the proceeds of these microloans.

The microfinance industry is often under scrutiny, and the economics have a way of turning a seemingly simple concept into a complex one. I believe beneath this scrutiny and apparent complexity it is important to remember the heart of microfinance. Why it happens. Why the need for capital started in the first place. Why people aspire to improve their business. Beneath interest rates, repayments, foreign exchange fluctuations, microfinance institutes, and so on, the heart of the matter is this…..

 

You can also read this blog and many more on the kiva fellows blogroll @ http://fellowsblog.kiva.org/2011/02/06/video-blog-the-heart-of-kiva/

Developing or Developed – which would you rather?

These words were inspired by a recent conversation I had with a Ugandan man who had spent 10 years of his life living and working in the UK. He left shocked over the lack of community, how you couldn’t just talk to a stranger on the streets like in Uganda, and how people would refuse to acknowledge someone sitting next to them on the subway. “They all just want their space!” he exclaimed mortified. He looked at his watch and said; “and it’s all about time.”

Here I seek to compile a list of my observations from living in both developed and developing. In my eyes both have certain advantages and a merger is what we need to aspire to.

The Developing World

Pros

  • Sense of community and openness: One thing I loved about arriving in the Philippines was that you could drive along the street and see into peoples lives, doors were open, children played happily on the street, everything seemed alive and you could feel the heartbeat of the place.
  • Evidence of culture and cultural identity: One of my biggest fears for the world is that it will become like an extended airport. I’ve passed through many an airport recently and apart from the shape of the building they really do feel much the same. Sometimes when I’m in Manila, Philippines I have to think very hard to remember which country I am in, yet when I go to Bohol where I volunteered last with Kiva, I know I am Philippines. Likewise there are parts of Kampala, Uganda when it is hard to tell what country you are in, and other parts where it is screamingly obvious. We need to hang on to these parts, to cling to them like a kid you’re walking across a busy road.
  • Less emphasis on time, less rushed, more idle time, time to think, waiting isn’t such a burden.
  • Vibrancy, colour, disorder, noise – I think one thing one notices about the developing world is it’s lack of aversion to colour, vibrancy and noise. A carnival-type atmosphere often results which I think development can sometimes suffocate. Yes I think we want suitable infrastructure and a degree of safety but I also think we need to let the true colours of a society to shine on through.
  • Local markets, buying from just down the street, vegetables of natural size, local produce

Cons

  • Lack of freedom based on financial restrictions – continually have to make decisions based around money, very difficult to travel, can’t afford luxuries and purchases that make life easier eg washing machines
  • Lack of infrastructure, access to health care
  • Stress from monetary pressure and greater physical hardships
  • Less regard for the value of human life, safety
  • Susceptibility to corruption, disease, natural disaster

The Developed World

Pros

  • More freedom of choice based on access to capital, savings, in a word money.
  • Quality of education, access to knowledge, world becomes oyster
  • Physical ease of lifestyle, comfort, less time spent on menial tasks
  • Potentially more opportunities to pursue dreams, to dream big
  • Orderly infrastructure and sound legal system

Cons

  • Increased stress from job pressures, often still monetary pressures to keep up with a certain type of lifestyle
  • More time pressures despite having machines to carry out menial tasks, what I like to call.. “I’m so busy mentality” which is quite different to the “I might just sit here on the side of the street all day” mentality of the developing world.
  • Lack of connection, safe houses with walls, gates, locks, not stopping and talking.
  • More structured sense of community instead of general ‘all inclusive’ sense of community
  • Tendency to become disconnected with nature because of the lack of contact with the outside world, and no longer relying on personal crops, food supplies. Eg Cursing the rains when in actual fact for someone growing crops rains are a blessing.

Please note that I realize that many people live outside the generalizations I have made. I’m merely commenting on observations I’ve made over the last few years and realize this is not true for everyone.

Ultimately I think we need to…

1) Aim for quality of life as well as quantity – for us to develop, but to slow down. Not to clock watch, not to have to be so aware of time. For all people to have the ability to stop in the street and talk. For no one to say “I’m so busy or I’m so stressed.” For those in the developing world who do live a slower paced life, to have greater access to health care and to live longer.

2) Aim for greater financial freedom for all around the world, access to capital and opportunities. For every individual to have the right to dream big. For everyone to have the opportunity to travel, to explore different cultures

3) Aim to maintain a sense of community and culture as we develop.

These are my dreams. Maybe I’m unrealistic. Maybe I’m not. Of course I can make these decisions for myself as an individual yet realise that not everyone wants to live like me, and that some people thrive on that fast paced lifestyle. I just want to let people know that for some reason I think living 80 years at 100 miles an hour probably feels the same as living 40 years at 50 mph. So how far have we really come? What is development? Have we really developed at all? What does development mean? Does it mean more money and better living conditions, or does it mean happiness and the time to enjoy the wonders of life? I think as we develop we need to put more emphasis on happiness and the enjoyment of life than on statistics such as life expectancy and gross GDP.

Thus my belief… The developed world can learn as much from the developing world as vice versa. Let’s keep this in mind as we grow.

You can also read this and more on the Kiva Fellow’s Blog

A week in my life..

So what does week one of being a Kiva fellow entail?  I can’t guarantee that this will be typical – we are all in very different places around the world, but for me…

Day One: I arrived at Entebbe airport Uganda.  Found a taxi to take me into Kampala, to my new abode, met my new flatmates, and went to sleep. Don’t worry the week gets a little more exciting after this!!

Day Two; Comparison number one: The art of getting to work is VERY different to my home town of New Zealand, and a little different to the Philippines where I last worked as a Kiva fellow.  After a hair-raising trip to work on the back of a Boda Boda or motorcycle taxi (I wasn’t wearing a helmet so my hair was blowing in the breeze) I started at Pearl Microfinance.  Pearl is one of the longest standing and largest Kiva partner Microfinance Institutes (MFI).  Here I met 30 something Ugandans, remembered about 5 names, and forgot the other 25 (note I have improved throughout the week).  I met Grace, Pamela and Richard who were all responsible for Kiva related duties and who I would be working closely with.

Day Three: I started to familiarize myself with Kiva processes and how Pearl does things differently to the last MFI that I worked with (Community Economic Ventures (CEVI)) .  I ate some matoke (a kind of mashed banana dish), rice, cassava, pumpkin and fish.

Day Four: I watched stunned as Pamela packed up her things.  Her contract had expired, and while she thought it would be renewed, this was not the case.  I felt sad as someone that I had just started building a rapport with was leaving so soon.  I started reading some statistics about Ugandan employment rates.  Uganda has a very high youth unemployment rate and it is especially hard for university graduates to get jobs following their tuition.  I just gave up a fairly good engineering work to become a volunteer with Kiva and I wondered if they thought I was crazy.

In the evening we went to the national theatre in Kampala to watch the movie Imani. This was an amazing Ugandan movie about 3 different lives in various parts of the country.

Day Five: Still getting to know the office, processes, finding my feet, riding crazy boda-bodas to work. I invested in a helmet (wise), and noticed how many people in Uganda don’t ride with a helmet. I also noted that the life expectancy in Uganda is 53 years old, compared with 80 in New Zealand.  I felt sad as both my parents are over this age and I expect them to be alive in 20 years, I couldn’t imagine not.

Day Six: We started to work through some issues with repayment reporting.  Suddenly it was Friday and I’d just finished my first week at Pearl Microfinance.  I went home and slept!

Day Seven: I went into the office in the morning as we were still working through repayment reports.  I made a few of the people in my office some sammies, as after 5 servings of matoke and rice I felt like something different.  In the afternoon we drove to Ggaba on Lake Victoria and I started to get acquainted with Kampala.  I visited Pamela’s house and we went out for pork and a few drinks to end the week.  Ugandans seem to enjoy going out on the weekend, they like dancing and having fun.

Today – Day Eight: I learnt a few facts about the boda driver I have been using today.  He is currently hiring the bike he drives for 10,000UGX per day.  He makes about 20,000UGX per day, so 10,000UGX ($4.50USD) after paying for the bike.  He has one big aim in life at the moment, and that is to buy a bike in order to double his income each week.  He is looking into microfinance options to fund this plan; and his hopeful that he can stop living from day to day, and worrying about the future.  This is good to hear.

You can also check out this post on the Kiva Fellows Blog.

Annapurna

Nepal lived up to all expectations and more.  The truth is that it had been around 9 years in the making!  Ever since our trip there was cancelled in our final year of secondary school (due to the Royal Family Massacre), my friends and I had been itching to go.  Nepal has a certain charm about it;

the prayer flags,

flying into a valley surrounded by the rugged Himalayas,

Tibetan prayer wheels,

walking through rice paddies,

everything screams enchanted.

Our 16 day trek began in Besi Sahar and followed the Annapurna circuit around to Pokhara where we unwound for 3 days before returning to the madness that is Kathmandu.  Here are some exerts from my scribblings..

Day One.. ” Kathmandu is a bustle. A real all senses alert, watch out for that car, that bike, that occasional horse, type experience.  To be in the thick of it is exhausting but if you stop for a while, sit back, and act like a peaceful Nepali then I think that is when the true beauty of Kathmandu unfolds.  I’m pretty sure any good Nepali Hindu or Buddhist is immune to the stress that should come from that many cars, bikes and people in that small an area.”

Day Two..“Today was the first day on the Annapurna trek.  Ironically we spent 8 hours in a bus, held up by construction, road works and oncoming traffic.  The roads leading up to the trek are real two lane wannabes; but in actual fact are much more suited to single vehicles or motorbikes. We are now in a place called Besi Sahar about to embark on the mighty Annapurna trail.  Despite the fact this is a fairly obvious tourist route it doesn’t really come across as one.  Children smile and greet you in the street with the word Namaste.  Namaste in long means “I see that there is a light within you, and I also have a light within me” A bit deeper than the casual whats up! We have one guide and two porters who combined probably weigh less than me – that’s between four of us. They are so slight, with no muscle or fat and the thought of them carrying all 40kgs of our luggage is somewhat disturbing”

Day Three..“I’m sitting in the most amazing spot.  A guesthouse perched somewhat precariously overlooking a mighty valley, framed by hills of rice terraces.  The scenery here seems a lot bigger than what we are used to in New Zealand. Despite the fact I am above the valley, not in it, I still feel tiny.  The porters are chatting around me, probably complaining about the oversized baggage, however, more than likely just catching up after a long hard day.  They’re not really the complaining type after all.  Today saw roughly 3 hours of walking, and 3 hours of sitting in tea houses drinking hot lemons and eating dalbaht – nice to ease into things. It’s 5pm now and the day is starting to unwind, to turn off the lights and twist into night.  Over the years this has become my favourite time of any day. Beneath me in the valley children scream excitedly enjoying their after school soccor match.  The river moves through the valley sounding like a relentless ocean wave.  The water is interrupted by pop music pumping from the porters cellphones.  Guess we’re not as far away from civilisation as we thought we were :-)”

Day Four..“Another day, another village. Another night in a guest house surrounded by the thunderous roar of the river.  We have left the land of the rice paddies and are now trekking between two mighty mountain ranges, pin pricks in an overwhelming landscape.  It has now been a while since contact with the outside world and the mental detox feels fab. Walking for 5 hours a day also feels so damn good.  Last night we sat around and played scrabble and talked.  I’d forgotten how much I love board games, they rock.

Day Sevenish..“My highlight from yesterday was taking a walk around the town of Chame pre dinner.  Again it was my absolute favourite time of day, around 5pm.  The small village was alive.  Young boys were having karate fights on the village volley ball court, kids were playing a throwing game in the street, ladies were chit chatting, and donkeys and their owners were returning home after a days work.  As I walked through the village my ears pricked up.. Hang on a minute.. That sounds like.. A GUITAR. I followed my ears to a little shop and poked my nose in the door.  Sitting on a stool inside was the local Nepali rock star – what a find.  So I sat and listened for a while, then he taught me a local song called Resham Periri and I taught him Free Falling.  Good trade.

Day Twelvish.. “So I’ve finally caught my breathe (literally) to be able to start writing again.  The last few days has felt like all we have done is eat, sleep, walk and go to the bathroom.  Real back to basics stuff.  Even our acclimitization day in Manang which consisted of two hours of walking seemed to disappear into a Nepali nothingness.  The highlight of Manang would have to be this cute little stone walled cinema equipped with bench seats and an unexpected hot tea and popcorn delivered to you half an hour into the movie! If only they did that everywhere. I heart popcorn. We watched “Seven Years in Tibet” which was exceptionally appropriate for the region we were trekking in, as we were getting closer to the Tibetan border with each step.  I remember watching the movie when I was about 13 and not really understanding much, however it is amazing how the world starts to unravel itself with the ability to travel and experience.  For most Nepalis travel just is not an option, and I wonder what it is like to know this and to view pictures of an outside world which they can never be a part of.  I think that travel to these parts, for us Westerners is the ability to catch a snapshot of the past. To watch people in awe, who are living the TRUE simple life but also noticing the physical hardships which come with this lifestyle.  I think it does tend to help us reflect on what is important, and what modern goods truely add value to our lives.  After near on two weeks of handwashing smelly tramping gear I’d be inclined to think of the washing machine as the miracle of the modern world.  But really all it’s saving you is time, which just get’s filled up with some other task, like typing your trip notes into a wordpress blog in case anyone cares to read them. :-)  Technology really does seem to save time, but this is counterbalanced by the way in which it also speeds up the world.  I’m still deciding what the net result is.

In other news we crossed the Thurong Pass! A whopping 5416m.  What a stunningly amazingly clear, blue sky, good feeling day.  Placing our Nepali prayer flags at 5416m felt incredible, and after 9 years of waiting we’d finally conquered Nepal.  I can see why mountaineers get the bug.  The sense of clarity and lack of confusion at that height is amazing.  It’s like the altitude only allows you to think of the fundamentals, nothing else enters your mind.

For the last hour I have been sitting on a window sill in our guest house in Kegpani.  In that hour again I have seen day turn to night.  Light gradually faded and the snow capped peaks in the distance have disintegrated into a whitish grey. The sun will not kiss their cheeks until it is tomorrow.  Before me the meandering plains of the Kaligandaki River flow gracefully by, nothing like the raging rivers of the earlier days of the trek.  Fields of Buckwheat and their soft pink flower now lie in a blanket of darkness”

That’s all for now, I wrote a lot more, but just wanted to share a taste.  Ahh Nepal, I think I will be back. But now, onwards, westwards, towards Kampala, Uganda.  I will begin my second Kiva fellowship on the 1st of November.  So more from me when I touch down in the Afreeeekan continent.  Excited, nervous, happy, grateful!

Inspired

I have been inspired to start blogging again, despite the fact that I finished my Kiva fellowship over 3 months ago now and life has moved with momentum in countless other directions since then.  Also I got a comment! And that felt good, so thanks to my filipino friend who enjoyed my post about the country I like to call Sweet Chilly Phili.  Of course, it really isn’t so chilly :-)

Right now I’m in New Zealand about to embark on a 3 week trek in Nepal through the Annapurna region.  Amped? Well, kind of.  I think sometimes before you leave on a trip you get swamped with endless amounts of min.  Admin is the devastating precursor to what will be an amazing adventure - unfortunately every trip requires some of it.  So in short, once I get on the plane I will be super duper amped. Right now I’m just exhausted.

Anyways I just found out that my blog about travelling on a shoe string was posted last month.. You can check it out here!

I’m going to take some good ole fashioned pen and paper to Kathmandu with me so I’l record my adventures and then post them here after. Wish me luck & catch ya soon!

Kiva, Google Earth, and the Big Wide World

Ok so hear me out on this concept – I think it’s a good one.  In my eyes one of THE greatest things to come out of the last fifty years is the ability to travel.  The ability to see, to experience, to understand different cultures, and get a taste of what it’s like to live in a country vastly different to your own.

So what about Google Earth? Google Earth, is the ability to travel from the comfort of your desk, living room, or internet café.  Google Earth means that we can ‘fly over’ a country, do a bit of recon, so to speak; and then dream of the day when we will arrive in this destination.  Google Earth is travel for those with family obligations, no money, or no time.  Google Earth allows us to travel to places we never dreamed we could go.

Google Earth reminds us that, yes, there IS a big wide world out there beyond our desk, living room, or internet café.

And now what is Kiva? Kiva is a website where you can lend $25 to support businesses in the Philippines, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Uganda and many others.  This is done through a beautiful little thing called Microfinance.  BUT, the point that I would like to make is that, this is not ALL that Kiva is.

Kiva is the ability to travel from your life, into someone else’s life.

Kiva is the realisation that while you stare at a computer screen for nine hours a day looking at market fluctuations, some people earn a living growing rice and vegetables.

Kiva is the reminder that while you have two mischievous children to deal with, some people have nine.

Kiva helps us to remember that while we are worrying about job success, and having enough to purchase that dream house; some people are more concerned with putting food on the table, and giving their children the education they, themselves, never had.

Kiva is the Google Earth of the cultural world, yet Kiva shows us that the world has a lot more to offer than buildings, roads, borders, and airports.  Kiva reminds us that, yes, there IS a big wide world out there beyond our desk, living room, or internet café, and that this world is filled with millions of people, living their lives in millions of different ways.

Kiva reminds us that we are all really just a reflection of the culture around us.  I hate to break it to you but if you had been born here, where I am, in the Philippines you probably wouldn’t have THAT house, THAT car, THAT job.   The way we live our lives is largely a combination of country, culture, education, as well as access to funds and opportunity.  Microfinance is slowly but surely leveling the playing field for the latter: access to funds and opportunity.  So if you believe in this cause, then please support Kiva, support Microfinance, and do some cultural travelling of your own.  Cheers.

You can also read this blog on the Kiva Fellow’s Blog

10 Things the Philippines Can Teach the World

1) How to smile

At the moment I am working as a Kiva fellow with the field partner organisation Community Economic Ventures (CEVI), based in Bohol, Philippines. Here there are some of the most fantastic smiles I have ever seen. It’s the real face lit up, all teeth accounted for, glowing beam that can spread far and wide.

Lesson: Plain and simple – Smile! Remember to smile as much as possible because everyone knows that smiles are contagious!

2) How to laugh

Another one of those contagiously good qualities – people in the Philippines can’t help but laugh. I’ve worked in 5 different offices over here with one thing in common, LAUGHTER. It is very easy to become disillusioned into thinking that your jokes are getting funnier, but in actual fact it’s just that the audience is ever so partial to good ole chuckle from deep in the belly.

Lesson: Laugh! Don’t take life too seriously. Do what makes you laugh.

3) Short men can jump

For a country where the average height for males is 5’4’’, basketball is an ambitious national sport. However, this doesn’t stop the Filipinos who are surprisingly talented players, despite their height. While hard to compete at NBA level (average height is 6’7) they sure do give it their best shot and are highly competitive in the Asian leagues.

Lesson: Prove people wrong. If you are apparently too short, too fat, too tall, too thin, not intelligent enough, then prove people wrong.

4) How to sing

Ok so if basketball is the national sport then singing has to be the national pass-time. It’s a break-through – you can do this anywhere and everywhere! Videoke rooms, the office, walking down the street, in a restaurant, wherever!

Lesson: Don’t restrict yourself to just the shower, Sing! “Sing like no one is listening. Dance like no one is watching. Love like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth” – Mark Twain

5) How to pack your ride

The average Philippines motorcycle leaves the car pooling lane for dead. If you want a more eco-friendly mode of transport then put your wife and three kids on a bike and Voila! If you’re not a bikey from way back then just grab a van or a jeep and take your entire neighbourhood to town.

Lesson: Ok so let’s try something a bit more realistic and pack our cars with as many people as there are seatbelts or take public transport. If you’re travelling solo opt for a scooter!

6) How to pimp your ride

Lesson: One of the main things about vehicles in the Philippines, in fact any object in the Philippines is that there are no COLOUR barriers. C’mon people you’ve got a whole rainbow to work with. Let’s put away the blacks, greys, whites and bring out the yellows, reds, lime greens, whatever. Let’s try to get away from the black suit, white shirt, tie phenomenon unless that’s really you?

7) How to eat rice

How to live, breathe, eat, sleep, everything rice. How to grow rice. Unlimited rice, rice with garlic, sticky rice, rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, RICE. Okay I think you get the picture. Unfortunately the Philippines is currently experiencing shortages in rice supplies and has to import a lot of rice from neighbouring South East Asian countries.

Lesson: In order to support the Philippines in achieving agricultural sustainability choose an agricultural loan from CEVI going to one of its rice growing clients. Help them produce enough rice to feed the nation and reduce their imports. Let’s apply this model to the rest of the world; choose local produce, try to harvest something on your own, get more in touch with nature. It feels good.

8) How to grow tropical islands

They just seem to pop up everywhere! The Philippines boasts over 7000 tropical islands; big islands, small islands, enchanted islands, tropical islands. You name it, the Philippines has it.

Lesson: I would 100% recommend embarking on a journey to this fine country, if you are fortunate enough to be able to travel. And when you get here make sure you put money into the local economy not just chain shops and big name resorts. In fact do this wherever you travel. If you want any recommendations on some spectacular destinations within the Philippines contact me through my lender page.

9) How to let people in – accommodate, and share

Filipinos are renowned for their ability to accommodate; even complete strangers will be welcomed with the utmost respect.

Lesson: Let’s build communities not gates. If you have a fruit tree overflowing take some to your neighbours, work mates, friends at school. Couch Surf. Open yourself up to the world and connections with your neighbours in a global and personal sense.

10) How to appreciate

One of the themes which is a big part of everyday life in the Philippines is the art of thanksgiving. They are constantly thankful for what they have. It is a philosophy which will get you through any situation in life and ensures that the positives are highlighted.

Lesson: When you wake up in the morning think of at least one thing you are thankful for before you start the day. Cliche as it may be, if you start each day with a few Filipino philosophies; appreciating, accommodating, laughing, smiling, and singing then it’s much more likely that you’ll have a good one!

Let’s focus on the good news not the bad news. Let’s move forward as a positive, unified, sharing, society based on the true human values of love and compassion.

You can check out this blog and more on the Kiva Fellows blog site



Hi there, I'm Anna - a 25 year old Kiwi just doing my thang. Hope you enjoy the blog.

I was posted in Bohol, Philippines for 3 months working for an organisation called Kiva as part of the The Kiva Fellows Program. Here I worked with a local Microfiance institute called Community Economic Ventures (CEVI) who were just awesome! From November-January 2011 I embarked on my second Kiva fellowship to Uganda and was working alongside Pearl Microfinance.

As part of the Kiva fellowship we had to blog about our experiences. Even though that phase of my life is over I'm keen to keep up with the writing. Most likely about travels & setting up business in the Philippines - or just anything else that comes into my head.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: