What a journey it has been. On Aug 24 I flew to SF with such anticipation and determination for a life changing experience. I wasn’t disappointed. SF was a week of total emersion in Kiva. It was inspiring to be among such an amazing group of younger people with a passion for alleviating poverty in the world. The average age of a Kiva Fellow at that point was 29. With youth and limited funds they couch surfed, stayed in hostels, mooched off of friends. My hotel was well below the standard Kathleen and I have become accustomed to. I was determined to immerse myself in the experience of being a Kiva Fellow.
My first two nights in Cilicap, Indonesia were in a hotel up to most western standards with a hot shower, AC, and fine restaurant. I had the means to stay there but in keeping with my decision to immerse myself I chose the other path, a home stay. Living in a traditional home, I learned about a traditional Indonesian bath, cooking in a kitchen with no oven or stove but a two burner Coleman style stove. Riding my bicycle on roads crowded with motorbikes to buy my groceries became an experience I looked forward to. Befriending the street food vendors and the lovely lady down the street who cleaned my pants were experiences I would never have wanted to miss.
Tedi got a student loan through Kiva. We went to visit his family at his home in a small village. His mother started to tear up as she told me about the impact the loan has had on the outlook for the future of their son. I had a hard time holding back my emotions. To experience the impact of a small Kiva loan first hand is an experience I will never forget. I saw how it can be life changing for people who don’t have the opportunities we have.
For almost four months I was immersed not only in the local culture of the country but in a culture of compassion. The people who work at Kiva partners are all working to improve the lives of those they serve. These people are at the base of the pyramid working from the ground up, changing lives one at a time. In the media we hear so much about man’s inhumanity to man. What I saw was man’s humanity toward others. On a personal level, it reminded me of the inner struggle we all deal with daily, that struggle between selfishness and compassion. The framed quote on the wall in my office as YSBS said “Happiness from getting is temporary, happiness from giving is forever”.
I had many assigned tasks which I completed during my fellowship such as
- Training partners in the use of Kiva processes
- Borrower Verifications
- Encouraging new catalytic loans
- Sourcing new partners
But above all my most important role was an ambassador for Kiva; building on relationships with existing partners and initiating new ones with potential new partners. The first two words in Kiva’s mission statement are “Connecting people”. Connecting people implies building relationships which in turn leads to compassion. By visiting the partner, I hope it showed how important they are to Kiva. Borrowers in the front lines were encouraged by the fact that a tall white guy came all the way from Canada to visit them delivering friendship and caring.
The hardest thing about being a Kiva Fellow is saying goodbye to all the new friends and the acquaintances made along the way, knowing that you may never see them again.
I feel privileged and thankful for so many reasons:
- To have been chosen by Kiva for this opportunity.
- To have met so many amazing people with compassion
- To have met the borrowers and see the impact of Kiva loans first hand
- To have a wife and family who supported me during this mission
During some conversations, the question about how this experience will change me came up. When I go home, I will not want to move to a smaller house, sell my car, and give up my membership at the golf club. However, I will not hold these things as closely. I will lend more money on Kiva. I will look on Kiva for borrowers I have met or at least lend through partners I know. I will look to fund loans that will have a more catalytic impact. My mission will be to increase awareness of Kiva, connect with more people and increase compassion in the world.Why not make a New Year’s resolution to increase compassion in the world by opening an account on Kiva.org and start connecting with borrowers, making small loans th