Archive for the 'Kiva' Category

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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.

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

Dear World….

Some people don’t like airports/train stations/bus stations but I do. I like those few moments in between where you’ve been, and where you are going. The fact you actually get a chance to reflect. I’m in a queue at the airport. Here are my thoughts.

Sometimes life rushes. Sometimes it goes so fast you don’t have time to check if you’re going in the right direction. Sometimes you see a slower, less comfortable mode of transport and assume it’s going in the wrong direction. Sometimes it’s not.

I guess this blog isn’t specifically Kiva related, but more of an ultimatum, to each and every one of you, to the world as a whole. Let’s stop every once in a while. Let’s reflect. Let’s allow time to consider what is important. Which way we want our world to go.

The thing I like the most about Kiva is that the essence of it has nothing to do with money. To me it is more about connecting people in different parts of the world. It’s the realisation that the fundamental values of human beings are all the same. It’s the fact that someone from New Zealand can care about someone in the Philippines; that someone from New York wants to help people in Mongolia; and that someone from Canada can care about someone living in Rwanda. It shows that a small operation based in San Francisco cares about the world. Let’s keep caring. And let’s keep making sure that we’re moving in the right direction.

You can also read this story on the Fellow’s Blog

My Right Hand Man, Sesenio

It is becoming increasingly obvious to me, living here in the Philippines, that SO often money does not go into the right hands. The two main shopping malls on the island of Bohol are owned by wealthy Chinese business men. Chain stores like Chow King, McDonalds, and Jollibee are filled with customers. When you ask people what they do in the weekend the common answer is “malling” or window shopping. Malls are synonymous with air conditioning. Air con means escaping the heat. Less people shop in the open markets and side of the road stalls. More people are drawn into the big chain stores.

And so the story goes, and it’s an old one, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. ENTER: Microfinance!

Microfinance is the “Robin Hood” of this scenario, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. The best thing is, that in the world of microfinance, Robin (aka Kiva) doesn’t need to steal, he simply asks anyone with a heart to lend $25. It’s too easy!

And now, people with hearts, I’d like to introduce to you Sesenio Jr. Sereno – the right man for your money! Sesenio is nearing the close of his loan on Kiva and is yet to be funded. Why? This is because he is asking for a $1100 loan, larger than most loans that go to Philippines clients. He is part of a new loan product offered by my microfinance institute Community Economic Ventures, Inc (CEVI) called the ASENSO loan (Asenso meaning developing). It is offered to clients who have been with CEVI in the early stages of their business when they needed just $200 to advance. However, CEVI also want to support these clients as they continue to expand their businesses beyond what they ever dreamed they could be. So, what I want to reiterate to you, is that while this is a large loan, it’s STILL going to the RIGHT person. Please watch the video below if you are new to this game and jump online to support Sesenio.

Hopefully by the time you read this blog Sesenio will already be funded. If this is the case please support someone else from Community Economic Ventures, Inc (CEVI).

You can also check out this story and more on

Why do we need Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and Interest rates?

A blog in response to comments under “Bad Roads, Interest Rates, and MFI Sustainability

Food for thought on Interest rates

  • Have you ever seen a microfinance institution?

Working with Community Economic Ventures (CEVI) in the Philippines I have come across the most passionate, forward thinking bunch of individuals who really care about the community in which they operate.  They are of similar mindset to the lenders, Kiva staff, and us fellows.  They are a part of this because they really care. Of course, they have operational costs! They have staff.  They need to distribute the money.  The loans are small.

  • Kiva loans make up a maximum of 1/3rd of their total operations (for the purposes of risk) – can you imagine the confusion of some loans being zero interest and some being 30%?

I don’t know about you but I’m pretty confused by the concept of a zero interest loan in general.  The fact if the matter is if you borrow money you get charged interest and this is happening globally.  It would not be fair to give Kiva borrowers 0% interest while others pay the full amount.  And I think equality is a big part of what we are trying to do here.

  • What is the interest rate on your home loan? Is it fair?

Perhaps not – but you have to pay it. So you pick the best rate on offer and you roll with it.  YOU MAKE THE CHOICE that the capital gain will offset the interest.  This is exactly what these entrepreneurs do.  Don’t doubt their intelligence.  Sure they might not always make the best decisions but neither does everyone in the developed world.  That’s just life.

  • Do they have better option for access to capital?

I think that in these situations it’s best to ask the borrower’s! Here is part of an interview with a CEVI client who directly talks about her loan with CEVI and ‘small interest’.  She is slow to speak as she is translating into English so please bear with her.  I promise you this video was shot before I was aware of the blog comments.

Food for thought on the need for Microfinance Institutions

  • Can you imagine the logistics of getting the exact same $25 that you donate to Kiva into the hands of a lady who lives somewhere that is not accessible by road, only by foot?

If you are worried about microfinance reaching the poorest of the poor then you know that “exact”person to person money transfer is impossible.  I urge you to suck it up and realise that you are possibly contributing to that person’s next loan.  Or read about Kiva’s new philosophy on lenders taking on loan risk in Claude’s Fellows Blog.

  • How on earth could Kiva be expected to have enough local knowledge in the 52 countries around the world and the ability to disburse funds in numerous different languages when Kiva is a small operation with extremely dedicated individuals, on small pay and low operating costs themselves?

What Kiva manages to achieve, for the number of staff is amazing BUT  Local knowledge is imperative – Kiva NEEDS the MFIs.

Please don’t let perceivably “high” interest rates and the presence of microfinance institutes deter you from lending on through Kiva! Be realistic and jump on the website now to get reloaning!

Slavery – abolished or reinvented?

Is exploitation just another form of slavery? This question has crossed my mind a few times today.

The borrower I just visited (who will remain anon) uses her loan to buy materials to make a product.

After a fair bit of questioning and digging. Here’s the dirt.

* The product she makes costs around $1.50USD in materials PLUS 7 hours of labour time.
* She sells each item for $2.50 – which translates to a profit of $1 per item sold.
* She ALWAYS sells her goods as there is ALWAYS a demand.

THE QUESTION THEN IS …Why doesn’t she sell these items for more than $1?

Unfortunately, the answer is that she can’t. This lady has little control over the income from her work. She is limited by the fact that;

* She can make a maximum of 7 items per week (1 item/day)
* The person who sells her the material is THE SAME person who buys and exports the product. They enforce a maximum of 120PhP ($2.50) for the finished item otherwise she won’t receive materials in the future. On the local market she knows her product is worth 500Php.

I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds like exploitation of labour. This lady is earning around 15cents/hour, $1/day. Minimum wage in this part of the country is around $5/day.

So let us consider how free she really is. Does she have the ability to increase her profits over time? No. Does she have the ability to increase her production? No. Is she earning less than minimum wage? Yes. Is her cousin employed in the same industry? Yes. Are there others like them? Of course. Where are these products going? Overseas. What are they sold for overseas? I don’t know – but I can guess that is more than $2.50. Is she a “slave” to this system? I think so. What are her chances to improve her living conditions, and the living conditions of her four children? Slim to none.

So where does the one buck stop? I guess I’m throwing this question at anyone who cares about a filipino lady who lives in a small house, in a small village, on a small island – a lady inevitably like many others around the world.

San Frantastic, Time to get real

The best part about leaving a place is that it generally means you will be arriving somewhere new.  You’re sad.  You’re excited.  You’re a whole bunch of simultaneous emotions.  I want to write this, my first Kiva Fellow’s Blog, while these emotions are still fresh;

while the bitter sweet sound of karaoke is still ringing in my ears;

while the last shot of the night is still processing;

and while the memory of 30 smiling fellows is firmly imprinted in my mind.

First let me tell you why I am excited

1)       I am about to embark on a three month fellowship for an organisation called Kiva.  They’re excited about the concept of microfinance.  We all know that excitement is contagious.  If you want to get excited too then skip to The Kiva website.

Continue reading ‘San Frantastic, Time to get real’

Motivation Statement

When I first heard about the Kiva Fellows Programme I knew this was something I wanted to do.  My recent experiences have taught me to follow my instincts and if I feel passionate about something, to pursue it.  This mentality can transpire in many facets of life.  My recent work and travels in the developing world have opened my eyes to a range of issues, and opportunities for improvement. As a civil engineer from New Zealand, while I do not exactly match Kiva’s criteria, there is no doubt in my mind that my skill set could be of use to Kiva and the entrepreneurs they are helping.

The main reason for my application can be attributed to my recent work in the Philippines.  For the last 8 months I have been stationed in a site office in Davao, Southern Mindanao working on feasibility studies for hydroelectric projects.  As I progress further into my career, I realize that my personal satisfaction and enjoyment, in this role, can only be fulfilled if I believe in the end product.  Being an engineer has taught me a way of thinking, of analyzing situations and thinking how can we improve this?  From an engineering viewpoint you may list subjects such as sustainability, renewable energy, environmental awareness, or carbon neutrality.  From an economics viewpoint, you may mention microfinance.  My work in the Philippines encompassed a few of the ideas mentioned above, specifically renewable energy.

My work in Davao has been as much about the people who have touched my heart as it has been about the engineering.  The Filipinos have an appreciation for life that is overwhelming.  They are constantly giving thanks for what they have, but at the same time they each have their future aspirations.  More often than not however, they have no means to turn these dreams into reality.  These are exactly the type of people that Kiva target and because of this I have an immense amount of respect for what Kiva is trying to achieve.  I have a strong people focus and believe that happiness comes from fulfillment of one’s dreams.  Thus the idea of giving people increased opportunities to pursue their dreams really appeals to me.

I feel strongly about wanting to get this role because just as Kiva allows the developing world a chance to follow their dreams, I believe becoming a Kiva fellow is about following my own dreams and desires for what I wish to achieve on this planet.

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.

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