Archive Page 2

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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