Only a few weeks into my fellowship in Cambodia, some things are already unmistakably clear. The Maxima staff, who I feel very fortunate to be working with, are an extremely dedicated, close knit family with an excellent client rapport and a visible love for their work. Because they love their work, they love Kiva; as a small operation with one branch (the smallest MFI in Cambodia), the impact of funding through Kiva is huge. The interest-free loans help them fund and service more clients than would otherwise be possible, and to Maxima, service is everything. The MFI prides itself on its door-to-door service, which is the main factor it claims differentiates it from other MFIs in the region. When asked why they chose to take a loan from Maxima, time and time again clients I interview say it’s because the MFI makes it so easy for them to repay loans. Having a loan officer disburse loans and collect repayments at their homes equates to saved time (spent away from their business operations) and money (spent on transportation into the city) – all costs they would forgo if making repayments at a MFI branch. For villagers located over an hour outside the city, or a ferry ride and an island away, these can be considerable. I knew my fellowship with Maxima would be a great exchange from the first day, when the CEO said simply, “We will learn from you and you will learn from us.” I couldn’t have imagined though how contagious working within the organization could be. When I ask loan officers why they chose to work for Maxima, I hear genuine responses like, “When I help Maxima, I help myself.” If I ask if they had a good day in the field, I hear, “Every day is a good day for me. It means I get to see my clients and I am very close to them.” And this MFI love isn’t limited to M-F business hours. Every other weekend they seem to have an office party at an associate’s home, and if none are scheduled, loan officers come into work on Saturdays… for ping pong matches on the office grounds. They just can’t get enough of each other! If they are passionate about their work, they are equally as passionate about Kiva and are openly grateful for any help coming on its behalf. For this reason, I am treated like royalty. And as much as I object and protest, it is all the same incredible to be shown such hospitality. I often feel they would bend over backwards to save me from moving a finger, which leaves me hoping I can return enough value to them to compensate for all of the energy they expend on me. As if actions weren’t enough, loan officers make sure to voice their gratitude as well: “I would like to thank you very much for coming…to increase the standard of living of Cambodian people.” “You help us a lot: I say thank you to Darin + Tami (past fellows), thank you to you, and thank you to Kiva!” When was working ever so enjoyable and gratifying? I’m already wishing I had more than 3 months.
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