The Olympics and Microfinance in the search for Identity
As our new job title appears to have changed to ‘Global Head of Olympics Events Watching’, our often dormant patriotic side comes out with a vengeance ready to shout at or even knock down the TV screen in an effort to support our athletes (I say ‘us’… is it just me!?). You have had the pleasure of enjoying a unique feeling of celebrating ‘just’ the effort and hard work despite the lack of triumphs (unless you are Chinese or American, then you celebrate stuff like gold medals!) and you have now officially become an expert in sports that you didn’t really know existed (if you have any questions about weightlifting, I’m the man!). Yet, even though the Olympics seem to strengthen the existence of national borders, they also break the barriers of language, age groups or culture to show that in the end we have more similarities than we think; I see no other explanation to Mr. Bean’s ability to make 1billion people laugh with such simplicity! I give him a gold medal.
Such similarities often make us strive to differentiate ourselves from the rest and look for our own identity. Elements that encourage identity building also lead to a greater likelihood of motivation to think about our goals and achieve them via self-believe. So… as Peruvians proudly celebrated their Independence Day on the 28th of July, I started thinking about why my work is contributing towards the provision of an environment that is prone to inspire people to think about their own identity.
I have previously describe microfinance and Kiva’s platform in particular as a recipe for peace and love through provision of empowerment; as a channel through which positive globalisation is expanded; or as providing the foundations for the building of a global community. Now I have also discovered that Kiva and microfinance also have a key role to play in giving people a wider choice of realistic possibilities for them to develop their identity through their jobs. For some of us, our jobs are a very important aspect of our lives, precisely because they have a big impact in defining and differentiating us as people, often serving as a proxy for our role in society or our passions.
The situation is no different with the people I have come across during my stay in Peru. Access to credit has allowed many of them to think beyond the borders of the traditional jobs, and to set up a corner shop, a vehicle repair shop or simply increase the number of pigs they have in their backyard. They are people whose day to day activities are providing a fundamental aspect of their identity; in most cases when you ask people to introduce themselves they will respond for example… ‘my name is Carlos Augusto Perez Rodriguez, I am Peruvian and I grow rice’. It is not necessarily about working in their dream jobs, but about at least expanding the boundaries of the possible. The point is that empowerment can encourage people to have a vision about the future, work hard towards that goal and serve as an inspiration for the rest of the community to have hope. In my case, I hope ‘Mr. Bean’ keeps on making us laugh forever and hope that my friends back in Europe have not forgotten about me as I head back there soon.
Icaro Rebolledo is a Kiva Fellow, working in Peru this summer with Kiva partnerEdpyme Alternativa, a microfinance institution in Northen Peru. Find out how you can become a Kiva Fellow or just more information on kiva and microfinance in general on kiva.org.