As my first entry in the Kiva Fellows Blog, I thought I would answer the obvious question, “Why did you apply to be a Kiva Fellow”?    Leaving a (paying) job to work for free for 3 months doesn’t always sound appealing, yet I could not be more thrilled to start work in Ecuador as a Kiva Fellow at Fundación D-MIRO this Monday.

While filling out my application to become a Kiva Fellow, I was asked to write a short essay answering this very question and I would like to share with you my response:

I discovered my passion for service the day Marisol chopped my onions.  It might sound crazy, but this small gesture done to prevent me from crying introduced me to an entire world where economic strife causes more tears every day than I could possibly cry in a lifetime.

I was seventeen when I first met Marisol at the diner where we both worked in the kitchen.  Given that she didn’t speak English and I was the only person who spoke Spanish, we would converse a fair amount while working.  One morning, she noticed me crying in the kitchen while chopping onions but when I showed up for work the next day I found that she had arrived early to chop my entire batch of onions.  Such a simple gesture of compassion bridged the enormous social, economic, and cultural gaps between us and paved the way for a lasting friendship.

At 35, Marisol left her four children behind in Guatemala so that she could work in Philadelphia to send money back to support them.  She lived in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with her husband and two cousins, sending so much of her income back home that she couldn’t always afford to use a laundromat.  I did my best to help Marisol with simple things — bringing her to my house to do laundry, introducing her to ESL books at the library — but of course there was no way I could drastically improve her unfairly difficult life with my limited resources.

Now, with the microfinance opportunities made available through Kiva, I have the chance to combat this problem at the source by helping to create economic hope for people like Marisol so that families can stay intact and dangerous trips across the border become unnecessary.

The way I see it, Marisol did everything in her power to prevent me from crying that day when she chopped my onions.  Now, I owe it to her to do everything in my power to prevent a new generation of people from shedding tears of their own because they’re forced to leave behind their families in search of distant opportunities which I hope to bring directly to their doorsteps through the power of a Kiva Fellowship.

Leigh Madeira is serving in Guayaquil, Ecuador with Kiva Field Partner Fundación D-MIRO as a member of the Kiva Fellows 10th class.  Please make a loan on Kiva or donate today!


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