Hi everyone.  I’m Felix, a Kiva fellow in Vietnam.  I am and have been working with Mekong Plus since late August.  I apologize for not blogging earlier.  My schedule was much different from what I expected, but I will be making up those blogs in the next few weeks with reflections on what has happened these past 3 months.

I guess for my first blog EVER, I’d like to share a story about why microlending has greater potential for success rather than donations.  After some 200 or some odd interviews, I had some questions and concerns about microlending.  Many of the borrowers I visited, while better off than before, were by no means no longer impoverished.  Many were still in debt to moneylenders or the government.  The borrowers were still working extremely physically demanding jobs.  They even sometimes struggled to make the repayments on the Kiva loan.  I understand it’s not easy to step out of poverty, but with the incremental progress that the borrowers were making, I wondered how long it would take them or if they would ever no longer be impoverished.  How much effective is microlending than donations?

While pondering the question, I had a chance to visit family I never knew I even had.  My dad emailed me the phone number of his cousin, and I gave her a call one weekend to see if I could come down.  I was pretty excited because I have never seen my family’s hometown.  Co Thao (Aunt Thao) took a bus with her aunt to Long My to pick me up.  On our way down to Bac Lieu, Co Thao told me if any family member asked me for money, I should tell them that I don’t have any.  I asked her why not, and she began to explain to me her family’s situation.  She told me how her dad has become dependent on money that the family in the States, including my dad, sends.  Ong Chu, her father, has a huge plot of land, yet he doesn’t work.  He encourages his family to stay home and wait for the next time money is sent over instead of going to school and working.  Every time Ong Chu receives money, he spends it all in one day, paying off debts that he’s developed and drinking.

The trip to my family’s hometown was bittersweet.  It wasn’t the way I had imagine my visit to my family’s hometown would be, but the experience has really completed my Kiva Fellowship.  Now, I have a better sense of why I journal and promote Kiva.  It also gave me a real life example of why we have microlending in the world.

On a sidenote, I’d like to congratulate Co Thao on her wedding and opening up a hair salon shop!  I’m proud to see her do something about her situation, and I know she’ll do what’s right for her family.

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