Will Putnam


Will’s first long-term travel experience was during a service trip to a village near Marrakesh, Morocco, where he saw the progress the village had made in rebuilding its elementary school. Will has had many divergent experiences since, as the Commodore of the Washington University Sailing Club, a clinical researcher at Barnes-Jewish hospital, a college counselor and test preparation instructor at an education startup in Bangkok, and a volunteer on an organic permaculture farm. These experiences showed Will common challenges facing small businesses and organizations as well as the importance of understanding cultural circumstances and open communication in any new venture. Will first participated in KIVA as a lender, but now brings his background in health care, education, and economics to the KIVA Fellowship, where he hopes to continue following his interest in international development and social entrepreneurship. An avid adventurer, Will enjoys traveling to new countries, running really long distance races, and seeing his favorite bands play live.

Fellows Blog Posts by Will Putnam

Apr 13, 2017 KE Kenya

One of the great things about Nairobi is the plethora of running groups available. In Monrovia, I was an avid member of the Monrovia House Hash Harriers, but there were few opportunities for more serious running. In Nairobi, there is at least one running group meeting daily. One of my favorites is the Urban Swaras, which meets at 7 am on Saturday mornings, with 5-20 km runs followed by breakfast. Urban Swaras is a pretty cool group. Like the hash, the group meets at pre-determined trails and follows arrows indicating where to go. However, there are not any of the rituals of hash (false... Continue Reading >>


Apr 10, 2017 KE Kenya

Much of the world lacks access to safe water. Worse yet, even in areas where safe drinking water is available, access is often restricted due to a lack of available financing. SMEP, one of Kiva’s field partners in Kenya, offers affordable WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) loans to borrowers looking to purchase water tanks. SMEP’s affordable financing has several major benefits. Since the loans are almost always repaid, the money can be given out to other borrowers after one loan is completed. In addition, the water tanks can store enough water for an entire community, so the... Continue Reading >>


Jan 17, 2017 LR Liberia

It is easy to notice that the majority of expatriates in Liberia live in a bubble, a world of security, running water, working toilets, electricity, and even air-conditioning and gyms for the lucky ones. What is harder to remain aware of is that Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, itself lies in a bubble. Despite the lack of toilets and electricity for the vast majority, Monrovia is, by Liberian standards, a land of privilege. In “the bush”, as it’s called, food security is still a huge issue. Most people are subsistence farmers, and they are often unable to grow enough food to sustain... Continue Reading >>


Dec 29, 2016 LR Liberia

Banjor Community is a wonderful area. It has friendly people, beautiful beaches, a gym, a golf course, the ruins of what was once West Africa’s largest hotel, over 160 schools, and now, thanks to Joseph Pambu, a computer lab and training program. The one thing this community lacks is electricity. Despite its location only a few miles from Liberian Electricity Corporation’s (LEC) headquarters, District #17, where Banjor Community is located in rural Montserrado, has not had electricity for 20 years. The copper wiring was stolen during the war, and Liberia’s government has not yet gotten... Continue Reading >>


Nov 2, 2016 LR Liberia

Coffee options in Monrovia are limited. Nescafe is typically the go-to option. Coffee grounds are sold at supermarkets, but they don't come cheap. There is one store with local Liberian beans, but then you have to grind your beans before making coffee. Who has time for that? So far, I’ve resorted to reusing grounds that I brought from home. This at least gets me my morning kick. But what happens when I want to go to a coffee shop? Where could I go? There are three options I know of in Monrovia. There’s Kaldi’s Coffee, outside of the Royal Hotel, which has amazing pastries and pretty decent... Continue Reading >>


Oct 28, 2016 LR Liberia

When most people think of entrepreneurship in developing countries, they do not think of innovation. Even in cases of extreme growth, such as in China, most wealth and development comes from copying what has worked in other places in the past. This is what is known as 1 --> n innovation. No truly new ideas are required; one simply has to copy what has worked n times. 0 --> 1 innovation is qualitatively different: it requires novel ideas.
Business owners on Tubman Boulevard
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Oct 18, 2016 LR Liberia

One of my favorite parts of traveling is the opportunity to try new foods. I’ve never been particularly interested in typical tourist attractions. I would rather explore and wander upon serendipitous experiences. The best way to truly understand what a culture is all about is to sample its cuisine.   Liberia is not particularly well known for its food. It’s a shame though. Trying Liberian food has been a valuable extension of my experience. The dishes are spicy, sweet, and salty; starchy, but full of various meats; and oh so exquisitely prepared and seasoned. Where else could one buy a... Continue Reading >>


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