Arrival in the Big Easy
Not every Kiva Fellow is from the United States. So there is a chance that being placed as a Kiva Fellow In New Orleans, Louisiana, USA will be an opportunity to travel to a foreign country. For me that isn’t the case, but I am relishing living here for the next three months in all of the Southern Comfort that NOLA has to offer. If you are an American, you don’t need a passport, a visa, shots, malaria meds, Medex insurance or to register with US Embassy upon your arrival. Everyone here speaks English, there’s electricity, running potable water and good Internet connectivity. The best part is they take US dollars!
All kidding aside, Kiva New Orleans is great. The “MFI” (Microfinance Institution) with which I am working is ASI Federal Credit Union and its community partner, GoodWork Network, a nonprofit microbusiness development agency that helps ASI to source microloans.
Goodwork Network assists small and start-up businesses with classes and advice helping New Orleans’ residents advance their operations to the point where, if it is determined they need a loan, they can be passed on to ASI and then to Kiva. It’s an amazing program. I have only been here a week and I have met dozens of individuals working tirelessly to make this Kiva City NOLA program work. There’s even a television ad.
From day one I fell in love with this city and its residents. I was won over immediately. Back in San Feancisco, during the Kiva Fellows Training week, the Kiva staff devoted some time to “Winning Over your MFI,” because in some placements the Kiva fellow is ignored or under appreciated. Things were easy for me in the Big Easy. Not only was I welcomed with open arms on my first day, I was given a car to use while I am here. Many apologies to my KF-16 & 17 classmates — you can think of me when you are traveling on over-crowded public buses and unpaved roads. (I feel for you — been there, done that.)
I split my time between the Goodwork Network office and ASI’s Community Center in the Bywater area of N’Awlins. There’s much work to be done as evidenced by the houses surrounding the Community Center. They still have the large X’s painted on them by the first responders after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The X’s were a code that the building was searched, who searched it, the date it was searched and whether anyone was found inside, dead or alive. It’s a bleak reminder of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, and the fact that the X’s are still visible means that we all still have a lot of work to do. If you are an small business owner in New Orleans and are thinking about a Kiva loan got to KivaNOLA.org and click on “to borrow” button. If you want to lend, go to the same place and click on the “to lend” button.
Kiva Fellow | New Orleans
Charlotte is a Kiva Fellow in KF-16, the 16th Kiva Fellows Class, with ASI Federal Credit Union and is now living in New Orleans. Charlotte has lived in India, Japan, and has built houses with Habitat For Humanity in Ethiopia, Zambia and India.