Friends and family have asked about the mundane details of my life as a Kiva Fellow in Uganda. “Where do you live?”and “What is your job?” are two frequently asked questions (FAQ’s).
Where I live: I am a resident of the Kolping Guest House on Bombo Road in the Bwaise neighborhood of Kampala. The Kolping is part of a worldwide chain of guesthouses operated by the International Kolping Society which was founded by Adolph Kolping as a Catholic, educational and action-oriented organization. Fr. Kolping was born on December 8, 1813, in Kerpen, a small village not far from Cologne. There are Kolping houses all across the globe, including one in the Manhattan and many in Europe and Africa.
I like this place for a number of reasons;
· It is incredibly clean, which has more than a little appeal after returning from a dusty day in Kampala and the surrounding countryside. The Kolping has a full time cleaning staff, but when the other employees have a free moment, they also find something to clean. I recently saw one of the dining room staff gently bathing the leaves of a potted plant on the terrace, removing dust that had gone unnoticed by me, but not by the Kolping staff.
· It is quiet and spacious. Kampala is a bustling city of over a million people. My mode of transportation is the ubiquitous 14 passenger taxi vans that ply most of the main roads. I’ve gotten accustomed to having my 6’2” frame jammed into a crowded, un-air conditioned van, often stalled in heavy traffic, in hot, steamy weather.
My room at the Kolping is quiet and my balcony overlooks a grassy courtyard set back several hundred yards from the noise and fumes of Bombo Road. At the end of the day I enjoy relaxing on the balcony, sipping a cold Bell beer, and quietly reflecting on the events of the day. At dawn I am awakened by the Muslim call to prayer broadcast from a nearby mosque, and I enjoy watching birds fly by as the sun rises over the hills of Kampala.
· The Kolping has a restaurant, which is a major consideration for a clueless husband like me who has not cooked for himself in over 30 years. I start the day with a complimentary breakfast of 2 eggs, toast, fruit, juice and hot brewed coffee. I often eat dinner there also, ordering from a non-controversial menu that agrees with my American digestive system.
· The TV in my room is inoperative and the TV in the restaurant is permanently tuned to an English soccer game, which I generally ignore, unless I am really bored. This is good. One my the goals on this trip is to wean myself from the 24 hour TV news/sports cycle back home. That shouldn’t be a problem at the Kolping House.
What I do at work: Back in October, when I was given access to the Kiva training material, I quickly paged through the documents looking for a Fellows job description. There wasn’t one. The duties of a Kiva Fellow are largely undefined to allow for maximum flexibility once we arrive at our overseas destination. Essentially, we are assigned to a Microfinance Institution (MFI) to make the relationship between the MFI and Kiva run as smoothly as possible. The role of the Kiva Fellow varies according to the needs of the MFI.
In my case, I sat down with the manager Share an Opportunity (SAO) for four hours on my first day at work. We talked about the history of the business and the most pressing needs of the organization. Based on that conversation, I was able to create five objectives to accomplish prior to my departure on February 20, 2008.
Objective #1. To visit all 45 entrepreneurs in the Kiva/ SAO portfolio, and visit at least six SAO branded SACCO’s (Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies), out of a total of fourteen , for the purpose of collecting information, and writing and publishing journals for the Kiva website.
This is one of the few formal Kiva requirements. It serves three purposes;
1. It acts as field audit to confirm that the money loaned by Kiva lenders actually went to the person shown on the website and that the loan is being repaid.
2. It provides feed back in the form of Journals which are published on the Kiva website and are emailed to every lender who funded the Kiva loan.
3. It helps me learn about microfinance at the grass roots level.
Objective #2: Help create and execute a new SAO product; “Business Skills Training Course” targeted to existing and potential direct borrowing clients.
a. Review development of the program to date
b. Finish the written program and prepare presentation materials by mid-December.
c. Promote “Business Skills Seminars” to SAO customers and prospects in December
d. Schedule seminars and participate in presentations in Jan/Feb
e. Train SAO personnel to conduct subsequent seminars after I leave
Objective #3: Help create a stand-alone website for SAO MF distinct and separate from SAO Uganda
a. Familiarize myself with the customer requirements of SAO clients.
b. Review the current SAO Uganda website for useful content.
c. Design new content and user –friendly website architecture for the new site.
d. Launch a new website by 15 Feb, 2008
Objective #4: To assist SAO MF in obtaining sources of funding to compliment KIVA’s funding, so that KIVA represents no more than 30% of SAO’s funding as of 15 Feb, 2008.
Objective #5: Review and revise the SAO Business Plan/Strategic Plan by 30 Jan 2008.
a. Review existing Strategic Plan
b. Make suggestions based on practical experience with SAO customers and SAO staff
c. Integrate suggestions, if accepted, into Business Plan
Just about everything I do during the workday relates to accomplishing one of those objectives.
In addition, Kiva recently asked me to train another Microfinance Institution that recently became a Kiva partner in Uganda. I will be delivering that briefing on Saturday, December 15. If this account requests additional support, I will follow up as directed by Kiva.
That pretty much answers my FAQ’s./>