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.

I am going here
I am going here
KF22 will cover the globe
KF22 will cover the globe

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.

Ayam Bakar or grilled chicken. Delicious!
Ayam Bakar or grilled chicken. Delicious!
Dry cleaning with a smile!
Dry cleaning with a smile!

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.

Tedi in red between mom and dad. Christina from YSBS beside me
Tedi in red between mom and dad. Christina from YSBS beside me
Tedi with Mom and Dad
Tedi with Mom and Dad

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”.

Meeting borrowers at their home
Meeting borrowers at their home
Words of encouragement for students parents
Words of encouragement for students parents

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.

CEO of ASKI,  Cabanatuan, Philippines
CEO of ASKI, Cabanatuan, Philippines
Rice farmer in northern Luzion. Kiva borrower.
Rice farmer in northern Luzon. Kiva borrower.

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.

My good friends in Cilicap
My good friends in Cilicap
My good friends in Cabanatuan
My good friends in Cabanatuan

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

Comments

This is an awesome post, Ron! So glad you had such a wonderful experience. Good luck back home!

I agree with the above comment. GREAT post !!! I volunteer with the ASPCA and it is always so rewarding working with the animals and making new friends and especially reuniting people and their pets. But I am sure nothing can compare to helping people in such a profound and personal way. I find myself wanting to volunteer with Kiva !!! Wow Wow Wow

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Ron Beaton Ron grew up in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province on the east coast. He graduated from Dentistry at Dalhousie University in Halifax and practiced for 25 years in Richmond, BC, on the west coast. Through the school of hard knocks he learned the importance of good business management and financial planning. That motivated him to learn more about these subjects. He took management seminars and received a certificate in financial planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning. He retired from dentistry and started a consulting business helping individuals and small business owners with money management and financial planning. From 1999 to 2012 he was a director of a company (CDSPI) which provides financial solutions for dentists across Canada. He organizes and mentors a financial planning study group for people in his own community of Delta, B.C. Ron’s goal with this group and his clients is to empower them to be more financially responsible. This dovetails perfectly with Kiva’s mission to help people pull themselves up by their own boot straps. The Kiva fellowship is a great opportunity to apply this philosophy using his experience.