Oct 8, 2007 WS Samoa

After tossing out some statistics on the poverty situation in Samoa in my first entry, I think I’m ready for a more personal take on the impact of impact of micro-credit and the overall economic situation in Samoa.

South Pacific Business Development is one of Kiva’s earliest partner microfinance institutions. With an entire staff of just 16 employees (including management), the institution covers over 2,000 active clients, whose loans total over $700,000. SPBD follows the original Grameen Bank model by administering its loans via borrowing groups. With very few exceptions, all of...

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Oct 7, 2007 UG Uganda

Rabaga is a district of Kampala, Uganda. It rests on the slope of a hill. Within Rabaga and hidden from the street by small store fronts is an area referred to as a slum. Indeed, it may be a slum, but it is not without a strong sense of community: made stronger by the women who belong to the Rabaga Women’s Lending Group. They meet once a week but their spirit permeates their community daily. They are leaders who wish to make a difference in their community. And, they all own businesses within this area.

I went to attend the group meeting with my translator, Herbert. As we...

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Sep 28, 2007 UG Uganda

Eleven years ago, when I first moved into the neighborhood where I now live, I held a block party. I wanted to meet my neighbors – didn’t want to drive home, politely nod at folks I hadn’t met, but lived next door.

So, I had a block party. It worked. In fact, for the past ten years, it’s rotated from house to house. But, after the seventh year it started to get a little long in the tooth. The desire to “connect” was waning.

I miss the connection. Not just in the neighborhood, but in other ways, too. Too much pop culture, not enough real...

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Sep 26, 2007 KH Cambodia

When I arrived here I was told that Phnom Penh was changing so quickly that even in the two months I would notice the difference in the city between when I arrived and when I left. It’s true that the city have been moving extraordinarily quickly. In 2000 there were no paved roads – now all the main streets are paved- and in 2005 there were no ATMs whatsoever – now they are everywhere. Nonetheless, I was skeptical that I would actually see any changes for myself, but it turns out they were right. My first journal mentioned the craziness of Phnom Penh’s...

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Sep 26, 2007 KH Cambodia

First day in the field

On the morning of the 5th September, a credit officer, a man who works in the office and speaks both English and Khmer, and I headed out to the field. The credit officer had his own motorbike, and I sat on the back. Despite being early morning the thick heat hung in the air and was steadily increasing. We zoomed up the main streets for about 15 minutes, past restaurants, markets and shops until we came to an abrupt stop by an alleyway that I probably would not have noticed myself. It was so narrow that the bikes...

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Sep 25, 2007 WS Samoa

Talofa! I can hardly believe that I am writing this from Samoa, the “Treasured Islands of the South Pacific”. I hope you will bear with me over the next 13 weeks as I share my experiences of working at the South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), Kiva’s partner MFI on the island.

Departing Los Angeles on a direct red-eye to Samoa, I arrived in the wee hours of the morning, weary and excited. The humid island air and a light rain were the first things to greet me as I stepped off the plane. I was later informed that my arrival coincided with the first signs of precipitation in...

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Sep 18, 2007 KE Kenya

Totos in Kayole Slums

Jambo Jambo everyone! Sadly my blogging and Kiva time has come to an end, I am actually writing this from home as I thought it would be interesting to compose my final installment from the perspective of being back in the ‘developed’ world. But before I launch into the big spiel I prepared about my amazing time in Africa, I will first delve into my last week working at Action Now Kenya.

My last week was pretty busy,...

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Aug 27, 2007 UG Uganda

I had the opportunity to attend the 3rd Annual African Microfinance Conference last week! Over 500 top government officials, academics, policy makers, and representatives from the private and public sector congregated at the Speke Resort in Munyonyo, Kampala for the four day event. Although I learned a lot from the presentations, speeches, and panel discussions, the networking opportunities were the real strength of the conference. Amidst the numerous dining and coffee breaks I had the chance to chat with Uganda’s Minster of Microfinance and the Minister of Finance, Planning, and Economic...

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Aug 22, 2007 GT Guatemala

Here’s a little video of a more average women’s group meeting at Friendship Bridge. The women meet, pray, have a little team-building exercise, have some “informal education”, this time about how to vote in the upcoming election, then pay their “cuota”, the monthly payment, and figure out about the next meeting. The informal education is one of the facets of Friendship Bridge that they’re most proud of. They want the credit program to be a path to educational growth. The Friendship Bridge women attend these meetings every 28 days (4 weeks). They...

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Aug 20, 2007 GT Guatemala

Ever wonder what a real women’s group meeting looks like? Here’s a Guatemalan example, a paperwork meeting for Friendship Bridge in Tecpan. This is where they make the all-important and sometimes stressful decision about how big a loan they want to ask for. Everybody has to come and bring their “cedula” or national identification card. There were 30 women in the group last time, and this time they’re adding four new ones. All 34, with various children and other relatives (and the occasional dog) are crammed into a little unfinished room with a dirt floor...

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