Last week was my last week as a Kiva Fellow. As I sat in the cold air of the bar Emprender took me to celebrate the end of my time with their offices and the national Dia del Trabajador (or workers day), I realized how far I have come. And how hard it would be to sum up the personal aspect of being a Kiva Fellow. And equally hard to sum up what microfinance looks like to me.

Here is an effort to show what I mean. Take a look at an album I made of my favorite entrepreneur photos from my placement in Honduras and in Bolivia.

I had just spent a solid hour learning the lilted, stomping, righteous traditional dance steps from Emprender’s regional directors and office managers. I was casually discussing (in imperfect but newly fully functional Spanish) the future of Evo’s MAS party. It was at this moment, during a pause in the live band’s flute playing and guitar strumming that I realized I have learned this city from the inside out. That is, I can tell you where the used clothes come from and how much a cow stomach has been marked up by the seller (35%). Microfinance can be a problem and I worry about over indebtedness, and irresponsibly lending to people who can’t repay. I worry that perhaps we still aren’t reaching the poorest of the poor, and perhaps there is a better way to relieve poverty. Is lending just a construct of “The West” (whatever that is) that shouldn’t be exported to “The Rest” (whatever that is)? I still don’t know.

Looking back on my 6 months as a Kiva Fellow, the sum total is positive. Enthusiastic, creative loan officers and entrepreneurs. Shiny new ideas and optimism. Smiles, laughs and hope. Microfinance doesn’t just change the material position of a family, but their self-image. This idea of self-image bleeds into the national consciousness. It changes women, and it inspires a community.

Flora bakes bread and now sells directly to a school with a monthly contract. Her loan allowed her to commit to a certain amount of product resulting in this contract that evens out her income and lends some predictability to a life wrought with uncertainty. She told me to pass along specific thanks to Kiva lenders.

Flora with her oven

Flora with her oven

Ramiro was robbed and lost the material he needed to run his tire replacing business. His Kiva loan puts him back on his feet. He spent the whole interview talking about the future. A bigger store. Transmission replacement. Employing his brothers.

Ramiro

Ramiro

Story after story like these two have warmed my heart, and made me believe.

Personally, I learned that I can’t stop my feet from itching, and will probably spend the rest of my life in a constant state of building a home and then taking it down again- and that I like that as much as I hate it.

Morning in La Paz- Sierra cleaning house

Morning in La Paz- Sierra cleaning house

I’ll never find a solution to poverty that fits in every way, and I’ll always have my doubts. Still, the fight for equality moves me, connects me, and I’ll never stop trying, thinking, working and exploring. Thank you Kiva for this opportunity.

**Sierra Visher is a Kiva Fellow (KF6) posted in Honduras with Prisma and Bolivia with Emprender.  She is heading to Pisco, Peru to volunteer with MAD Volunteers. After that- the open road. You can follow her journey on her personal blog. **

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