By Nick Malouin, KF9 Togo

While most of the other Kiva fellows had already been in the field for two weeks, I was at home in Toronto feeling a little left out and getting increasingly jealous. Well, I’m finally here! In Lome, Togo that is, after 3 flights and countless bad movies I arrived late Saturday night. My final destination is Kpalimé, 2 hours north of Lomé, where I will be working for three months with FECECAV, an MFI that targets under-served borrowers in the Plateaux and Maritime regions of Togo (basically the southern half of Togo).

Flight to Lomé

Th view of Tripoli, Libya on the way to Lomé

One of the good things that came out of leaving a few weeks after training was that it gave me an opportunity to tell a few more friends and strangers that I was going to Togo.  Before becoming a Kiva Fellow, when asked what I did for a living I would say “I work for Toronto Dominion Bank in risk management” and that would usually be a quick end to that part of the conversation.  Telling people that I was going to work in Togo at a microfinance institute has opened up whole new set of conversations that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Most surprising has been the number of people who have lived in Togo or nearby and who had words of encouragement; a cab driver in San Fransisco originally from Nigeria who was going home at Christmas and offered to drive me to meet his family; a friend in New York from Ghana who’s family I have been invited to visit in Accra; a friend of a friend who grew up in Sierra Leone and drove to the beaches in Togo as a kid. And finally, on my way from Toronto to Paris I sat next to a brother and sister, now living in Paris but originally from Benin, who had visited Kpalime on vacation when they were younger. They took my email address and promised to put me in touch with some of their remaining family in Benin.  When I laughed at this the brother told me “This is what we do, this is how people connect”. The list goes on but those are the conversations that stick out. I have a feeling this type of hospitality will continue as I travel and luckily many other Kiva Fellows will experience the same wherever they are.

Nick Malouin is a Kiva Fellow currently working with FECECAV in Kpalimé, Togo. To meet some of the FECECAV entrepreneurs please click here.

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