I’ve made it to Zimbabwe. I arrived Sunday: earlier than planned but my new tenant in London was keen to move in quickly. I figured the extra time here would be well spent getting settled in and finding accommodation. Work will start next Monday.
The San Francisco training was invaluable in helping me better understand how Kiva works and what our role as a Kiva ‘Fellow’ will be. Apart from anything, it was inspiring to spend time with the others in my class (‘KF26’, as we’ll be known). I reckon I was about the oldest (not ever, I hasten to add: there have been older Fellows in previous classes, but I was definitely at the top end in KF26.) A fair number have a finance or consulting background. But just as many come from elsewhere, whether the not for profit sector, media or journalism. There’s a wide spread of nationalities (quite a few from the US, but also Asia, Africa and two of us from Europe). Despite the varied backgrounds, it was interesting to see the core elements we had in common: huge enthusiasm about the work Kiva does and how it’s alleviating poverty; and many, like myself, at a transition point in terms of career. It’s going to be interesting to see where everyone ends up. After the week’s intensive training, we had a great celebratory ‘graduation ceremony’ on the final day, each in turn pinning our picture to our location on the Kiva office world map, before being cheered and welcomed into the fold by the entire Kiva office (to the strains of Land of Hope and Glory, bizarrely…)
Many people have been asking me what the Kiva ‘Fellows Programme’ is exactly, so here’s a quick overview. The Programme is run 2-3 times per year, and involves around 30 individuals being posted across the globe to Kiva’s ‘field partners’ (the in-country organisations who work with Kiva to manage loans to local borrowers). The role of each Fellow (it’s an unpaid, volunteer position) is primarily to help build the relationship between Kiva and the partner on the ground: so, for example, ensuring Kiva has a good understanding of any particular local challenges the partner faces, and helping the partner organisation understand how Kiva works. A core element is meeting with individual borrowers, to review with them the impact the loan has had on their lives. This helps Kiva ensure future loans are targeted at those people, businesses, locations where they will have maximum social impact.
There is more information on the Programme here, if you’re interested: http://www.kiva.org/fellows.
With the training now over, the group has scattered: assignments include Tajikistan, India, Burkina Faso, Honduras, Ecuador, Laos and one person in the middle of the Pacific, in Samoa. I was delighted with my posting to Zimbabwe (although you can express a preference, it’s ultimately determined by a match of your individual skill-set to the assignments available). My partner organisation is called CAMFED: The Campaign for Female Education. I’ve had a brief meeting today and, whilst I’ll leave it to another blog posting to explain what they do, I’ll just say at this point they seem to be an amazing group of people, making a major impact on the lives of young girls across the country. I’m really excited (albeit slightly apprehensive) about starting on Monday.
So meantime, immediate focus is on finalising accommodation for the next four months. And maybe buying a bike, if I can muster the courage…