Alidé’s Kiva coordinator spends a lot of time on the Kiva site, mainly from the back end, uploading profiles and journals. But she’s never experienced what it’s like to be a Kiva lender, an experience I wanted to give her thanks to the $25 Kiva gift certificate I’d received at training. Getting her to use it has been a challenge.
I gave her a print out of the certificate on my second day, but she kept putting off when we’d use it. Last week when there was a lull in work, but solid-seeming electricity, I decided it was time. She didn’t seem happy about my decision and begged for another colleague to join us. But I don’t understand. What do you want us to do? they asked with alarm. I explained (again) that it’s a gift certificate so that they can loan $25 to an entrepreneur somewhere in the world and experience all the steps of being a Kiva lender (choosing an entrepreneur, getting email updates and journals about the loan, being reimbursed, etc).
They looked petrified and asked the same questions three more times and while my French could be better, it’s not that bad. Through some probing, I realized that they simply didn’t understand where the $25 was. They (fairly) didn’t understand the concept of a gift certificate (when you think about it, it is kind of weird). Was I making them pay $25 of their own (that being several days pay)? Who was paying? Someone had bought that piece of paper? That piece of paper cost $25? How is it like a wire transfer when there was no account information? If not them, who was going to have to pay $25?
When I finally got them on board and we picked someone we liked (a cobbler in the Philippines), the code didn’t work – kiva.org said it had already been used. This put a dent in my enthusiasm and I feared that it had confirmed to them that the piece of paper couldn’t have been worth anything.
This week, they were the ones who broached the subject. When can we try again? they asked. Armed with a new gift certificate, we did some searching and eventually loaned $25 to a storeowner in Senegal. They liked her because she was asking for a smaller sized loan (they found the thousand dollar loans to be too much) and because she had two kids and ambitions. It didn’t hurt that her bio was in French, either.
Upon our payment, giddiness ensued. Je suis Kiva lender! (I am a Kiva lender!) my colleague said and we promptly created a lender profile with a photo so that you could see my colleague proudly displayed among the list of the woman’s lenders. And then we joined the Bénin lending team, talked about starting an Alidé lending team, and checked out our portfolio. Later in the day, my colleagues called me to report having received an email confirming that the loan had been fully funded. This made me very happy – they totally understood the excitement that is Kiva! I hope the experience (today and during the repayment period, hopefully accompanied with a journal) will show them why their job is so important – and why Kiva is so much fun.
Alidé’s loans sell out quickly. Click here to see if there’s any available right now.
To join the Friend of Bénin lending team, click here.
Marie Leznicki is a Kiva Fellow serving her placement with Alidé in Benin.