The Kiva Fellows Phenomenon
“Goodbye. I love you. I’ll miss you but I know how good what you’re doing is, and I want you to be there”. Suddenly I was on through security, on the plane, and the engines whirred into life as we accelerated up the runway. And it dawned on me what I was leaving behind in London, to spend the next few months in sub-Saharan Africa…
…“Why am I doing this?”
Let me introduce you to the Kiva Fellows Phenomenon.
2 months ago I was sitting in an office in London’s West End in highly regarded and well paid job.
- One month ago I sat at Kiva HQ in San Francisco surrounded by 19 talented, driven, and fascinating people, all about to be scattered across the world in the latest exodus of Kiva Fellows.
- Yesterday I travelled through heat and dust to the slums of Cotonou, Benin, to see a group of potential borrowers and talk to them about Kiva.
All across the world, in some of the poorest places that exist, our network of fellows has left behind friends, family, and all the conveniences we take for granted in the west. They are having very similar conversations with potential borrowers in their countries right now.
And yet we choose to do it. This is the Fellows Phenomenon.
“No. Really. Why am I doing this?!”
The answer is, of course, Kiva. Or rather, what Kiva does, and what it represents.
And no-one does responsible microfinance like Kiva.
- Better to run their operations, ensuring they can spread their scarce funds as far as possible to help the most out of reach entrepreneurs get access to credit.
- To ensure transparency and social responsibility it their actions, so that they may shape a sustainable and positive microfinance industry in their countries.
By carrying out these tasks, I am helping Kiva’s field partner in Benin (an MFI called ALIDé) build the country’s economy from the very bottom. I think this is worthwhile enough to abandon my comfortable life for at least the next four months. So do nineteen other fellows across the world right now. So have nearly 350 other fellows since the programme started four years ago.
There are many ways to see how powerful a force against poverty Kiva is. The Fellows Phenomenon is only one of these. I’m not asking everyone to take the extreme steps we have taken, but I would ask you to consider where your money goes and what it does.
And whether just $25 of that could be loaned to a Kiva entrepreneur today.
Gareth Davies is a newly arrived Kiva Fellow in Benin, West Africa. The next four months will see him work alongside ALIDé to spread their Kiva operations in marginalised communities across the country.