By Megan Bond, KF15 Ecuador
I arrived in Ecuador at night, took a two-and-a-half hour taxi ride to my hotel, and fell asleep in unfamiliar surroundings. It was dark and I saw nearly nothing of the country I would be living and working in for the next several months except for streetlights, headlights, and the many Chevron signs that guided the journey through the mountains. It was not until the next morning when I opened my hotel window in the strong daylight of 7 am along the equator that I caught my first real glimpse of Ecuador: the sunlit rooftops of the city of Ibarra and the Imbabura Volcano draped in smoky clouds rising to a dramatic point above the city. My first glimpse of Ecuador was more brilliant than I could have expected. In reality, I was not sure what to expect about this new country and this new role as a Kiva Fellow as I first arrived. My mental images of Ecuador and my conceptions of FODEMI, the new partner I would help initiate to Kiva, were cloudy at best, overcast with excited uncertainty. My true experience here in Ecuador as a Kiva Fellow began that morning I first saw Imbabura Volcano rising above the city and my real-life experiences continue to unfold in my everyday experiences as a Kiva Fellow in Ecuador.
I have been here working with FODEMI in Ecuador for more than three weeks. It has unquestionably been an adventure every step of the way, filled with challenges and rewards. But, with every turn, I have been amazed by the incredible kindness, sociability, and work ethic of the people I have encountered in Ecuador. Here in the “middle of the world” (as Ecuador, which translates directly into “equator” in English, is recognized locally) exists an excellent organization filled with people who make the work that Kiva lenders appreciate happen everyday. As a new Kiva Fellow, I am here with the primary mission of assisting FODEMI, a brand new Kiva partner, with what to expect in their new role as Kiva partner and what to do to make this new partnership flourish. This is a fantastic opportunity to introduce readers and Kiva lenders to an excellent new partnership Kiva is creating in the northern and central Andean sierra of Ecuador.
Since its inception in 1995, FODEMI (Fondo de Desarollo Microempresarial or Microenterprise Development Fund) has been a socially-motivated microfinance institution (MFI). FODEMI is a non-profit organization working in association with World Vision International. In the past sixteen years, FODEMI has focused on providing access to credit and financial services for clients who cannot obtain credit from formal financial institutions. Their strategy is aimed at lessening, and eventually eliminating, the impact of poverty by providing access to economic opportunities to generate income to improve borrowers’ life circumstances. This objective compliments Kiva’s endeavor to provide “loans that change lives” and connect lenders and borrowers for the sake of alleviating poverty.
FODEMI is Kiva’s only partner organization across the expanse of the northern region of the Ecuadorian Andes. In the region’s seven provinces, FODEMI has an impressive and extensive program of outreach in areas both urban and rural and across ethnic groups. A majority of FODEMI’s clients, currently 71%, are women. As research around the world and across disciplines has indicated, credit in the hands of a woman is considered more likely to benefit the family unit as a whole as women are more inclined to invest their profits in education for their children, food supplies of increased quantity and quality, and other ventures to create a better future for themselves and their families. FODEMI possesses strong social values, including their dedication to transparency, honesty, and commitment to clients and social responsibility. For these many reasons, I see great potential for the relationship between Kiva and FODEMI in the future
This past week, spending about 20 hours on buses, I traveled to FODEMI’s regional branch offices with Mayra Vásquez, FODEMI’s Assistant Chief Executive and current Kiva Coordinator, to train the local loan officers on what Kiva is and how to implement this new project. Loan officers are the (often unsung) heroes of the Kiva processes. It is the loan officer that approaches clients, disburses loans, and interviews and takes the clients’ photos that appear on the Kiva website. Training the loan officers on how Kiva works one of things that stood out was their surprise (and, at times, disbelief) surrounding the motivations of the more than half a million Kiva lenders in almost two hundred countries to lend their own money without receiving anything tangible in return. We tell the loan officers it’s about the transparency, the personal connections we make, and the social contributions we make that encourage lenders. When two loans of FODEMI borrowers totaling more than $3,000 were completely financed in about a day, I think Kiva lenders effectively communicated this commitment to the non-tangible much better than my words did.
The actions we make — or do not make — have an impact even (and maybe especially) halfway across the world. On Kiva, and through Kiva’s local partnerships, we create and experience these profound impacts. It is an honor to help set the foundation for a new partnership to establish a medium for these impacts to connect with you, FODEMI and its employees and clients, the entire growing global community of Kiva, and beyond.
Megan Bond is living and working in northern Ecuador working with FODEMI and enjoying escaping the Texas summer heat with the temperate climate of the Ecuadorian Andes. For more information on FODEMI, visit FODEMI’s partner page or English website. If you would like to support FODEMI and its borrowers, please join its newly created lending team. If you feel so inclined, check out our currently fundraising loans!