Jamie Greenthal | KF 17 | Philippines
In keeping with the transformation theme (see From One City to Another: A New Yorker in Tagbilaran), I am proud to say that I recently graduated from Kiva trainee to Kiva trainer. The setting was Corella, Philippines, a bucolic and verdant village on the island of Bohol, where 30 young Filipinos, most of whom had recently graduated from college, were undergoing intensive training to become microfinance loan officers.
When I arrived in the training room, which was right after a lip-smacking lunch of dried bolinao (Google it), sautéed mongo beans, and malunggay leaves, the soon-to-be official loan officers (or Enterprise Developer Officers as they are called at CEVI) were busy learning a camaraderie-building dance, which reminded me of a cross between the hokey-pokey, the Macarena, and the chicken dance:'
Before Jane Alcantara, Global Funding Project Coordinator at CEVI, described how the loan officers should execute Kiva loans with their clients, I was called upon to present Kiva at a high level to the folks who are responsible for making Kiva happen in the field. Despite my nervousness, I was ready to share the knowledge that I’d accumulated. I was thinking that only a few months ago I was drafting my Kiva Fellows application essays, and now I’m in the field teaching new loan officers about Kiva.
I felt a deep sense of pride to represent Kiva and what it stands for, and personify the connection that binds lenders, microfinance institutions like CEVI, and borrowers around the world. One of the main reasons for taking this journey was to play a role in the creation of this bond. I could only learn so much about microfinance in books and on the Internet; I needed to see it unfold in front of me.
After I presented, I was thrilled (and a bit nervous) to see the loan officers’ hands shoot up in the air. Their questions about Kiva were amazingly astute:
“Does Kiva plan to lend directly to borrowers?”
“Will Kiva lend to organizations other than microfinance institutions?”
“How does Kiva support itself if it does not charge an interest rate?”
“What is Kiva’s policy toward lending in Mindanao?”
I think they had done a little bit of studying beforehand.
Finally, Jonathan Neri, Corporate Communications Officer for CEVI, rose to speak about the power of the CEVI brand and logo, which includes, at its center, a germinating seed. He explained how CEVI started simple and small, with 47 clients and two volunteers in 1998, and has sprouted to a national organization with 38,000 clients and 300 employees.
In a heartfelt way that captured the attention of the budding loan officers, Jonathan described how transformation couldn’t be accomplished overnight; rather, it must start simply and be cultivated over time. It made me think about the personal and professional growth that I am experiencing. While I am still germinating, I hope to blossom much like CEVI and its loan officers.