I’m a new Kiva Fellow volunteering with Maxima, a microfinance institution (MFI) headquartered in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. I arrived in Phnom Penh about three weeks ago, and had the luxury of a week to acclimate before starting at Maxima.

My arrival coincided with a visit to Cambodia by Kiva co-founder Matt Flannery and Kiva Chief Software Architect Zvi Boshernitzan, who were making a field visit to see how Kiva works in the field for partner MFIs and for Kiva borrowers. I went straight from the airport to a dinner at a Phnom Penh restaurant with Matt, Zvi, and other Kiva Fellows serving in Cambodia.

(And what does a new arrival to Cambodia eat, fresh off the plane? Tarantula. Deep-fried, with a side of minty dipping sauce. Tarantula is among the edible insects not uncommon in Cambodia. I’d say it has a nutty flavor, but I’m sure the others who ate it that night have a different opinion.)

During their visit, Matt and Zvi paid visits to all four of the MFIs that Kiva partners in Cambodia. Maxima became a Kiva partner in May of 2007, and is the smallest of the four Kiva partner MFIs in Cambodia. I got to accompany Matt and Zvi on their visit to Maxima, which involved a stop at headquarters, and a trip out to the field to meet Maxima borrowers that were funded through Kiva.

For me, it was a fantastic orientation, an orientation that Kiva Fellows are rarely afforded when they land at an MFI. I took a lot of photos the day of our visit, and once I got back home I found a program on my Mac I didn’t know I had — Plasq’s photo “comic book” generator. I spent a few hours playing around with it, and realized it would be a great way to tell the story of our day visit with Maxima. After a day or two (or three?) or working on it, I finished Kiva in Cambodia, a nine-page photo comic.

Once I’d finished, I was excited. I showed it to Maxima staff, and they liked it (or at least that’s what they told me). I wanted to post it to this blog weeks ago, but ran into a problem shared by almost all Kiva Fellows working in the developing world: limited Internet access. The photo comic isn’t big by broadband standards in the U.S., but in Cambodia, it’s a small giant.

More often than not it can be a huge challenge to upload or download things when connectivity is spotty, dead slow, or both. For anything Internet-related, Murphy’s Law is a constant here: everything goes wrong. (Kudos to all Kiva Fellows who have posted video from the field — you are patient, persevering people!)

In a bind, I turned to Kiva Friends, a diehard group of Kiva supporters. I posted a message on their site asking for Web hosting help with Kiva in Cambodia and my plea was answered by one Fred Isler from Virginia. Fred (of 579 loans, and counting, to Kiva entrepreneurs) graciously agreed to host the comic on his personal site.

Thanks to Fred, I present to you… Kiva in Cambodia, the comic. Click on the image below to view it at Fred’s web site, or click here. Let me know what you think!

Kiva in Cambodia

Kiva in Cambodia

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