Buddha’s birthday!

By Cheney Wells, KF11, Sri Lanka

Last week was Vesak in Sri Lanka, an important holiday celebrating the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha—the supreme Buddha in many Buddhist traditions, including the Sinhalese Buddhism practiced here. The streets of Colombo were a blur of lights, people, and street food sure to spin your stomach like the electrical toranas and lanterns strung across the city. Approximately 69% of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, but there are also sizeable populations of Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Despite being a Buddhist religious celebration, Vesak in Sri Lanka appears to be enjoyed by people of all faiths.

In addition to this special Vesak holiday, there are 28 “poya” holidays throughout the year (occurring every full moon), which makes the repayment schedule here a difficult task to administer. Since loan collections aren’t made on poya days, the repayment schedule uploaded to Kiva has to capture this, skipping any weeks where collections won’t be made.

Sri Lankan Kiva borrowers could start a lantern business!

Part of the work of a Kiva Fellow is to set up an easily executable system for such processes as the repayment schedule, so that these tasks can be passed along to the staff of the MFIs that Kiva partners. In a sense, a Kiva Fellow works to make his or herself obsolete at the MFI—a wry term that has been coined amongst Kiva Fellows.

While I’m still here, however, I’ll make sure to keep you posted on all the developments from the island!

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