If you’re thinking about becoming a Kiva Fellow, there are a few invaluable skills you should develop prior to entering the field. This list has been tested and compiled based on multiple fellows’ experiences. If you can nail all five of these skills, you are on your way to becoming an excellent fellow. You’ll do Kiva proud.
1. The ability to shower in a bucket.
It’s very likely that at some point during your fellowship, water for a shower will be unavailable. Sometimes for days. Sometime for weeks. To avoid completely turning off all of your new colleagues, you’re going to have to get creative. If you don’t have a bucket, a large basin or soup pot will do. Get scrubbing!
To recreate the full experience, you’ll want the tiniest bucket you can find and about 2 quarts of water. Some expert bucket-shower-takers recommend standing in the bucket, but if your foot size precludes that, standing next to the bucket will do.
2. The ability to conduct conversations entirely through gestures.
Unless you’re in a country where everyone dependably speaks English or you speak the native language, chances are that you’ll have to engage with a few people with whom you share no words in common. That’s okay! There are all sorts of universal gestures for things, and you’ll be surprised how far some quality arm-waving will get you.
Round up all of the willing (and unwilling) friends you can find and work on your Charades skills. Your friends may roll their eyes, but when you’re trying to figure out if you’re getting on the right bus at 4:50 AM somewhere in Albania, you’ll be glad you spent the time figuring out how to act out “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” I swear the skills are transferable.
3. The ability to hang a mosquito net.
Many of the countries Kiva fellows are placed in will require you to take precautions against malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Since you’ll be sleeping under a net for four or five months, you’ll want to practice your hanging technique so the thing doesn’t drop down on you in the middle of the night.
Drape everything everywhere! Hang up sheets in your living room. Build forts in your bedroom. Not only will this prepare you for your Kiva fellowship, you’ll have a legitimate reason to build a fort. It’s a win-win.
4. The ability to ask for help when you need it.
At some point, you’ll hit what Kiva HQ refers to as “the trough.” It’s a period of frustration or disillusionment when things are hard or aren’t going your way. Being able to reach out to your portfolio manager or other fellows will go a long way towards keeping you happy and productive.
This one’s a good one to practice regardless of where you are. If you need it, ask for it!
5. The ability to smile regardless of the situation.
Since you’ll be meeting borrowers who may not speak your language or understand who you are right away, being able to genuinely smile and exude warmth – even in awkward situations—is a must-have skill.
Try grinning at everyone and everything in your neighborhood. Old people, babies, dogs, fire hydrants; nothing is off-limits. You’ll look crazy, but that practice will pay off when you’re in the field, smiling at people who may be too shy to smile back.
If you’re interested in becoming a Kiva fellow, check out http://www.kiva.org/fellows
If you’d like to learn more about one Kiva fellow’s journey in the field, you can check out my blog at www.whereisannie.com
Good luck with the practice! I'm rooting for you.