Posts Tagged 'Philippines'

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

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’

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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