Morals & Microfinance

By Yelena Shuster, KF 11, Azerbaijan

For some, traveling abroad is an exotic means of recreation, for others it is a learning experience. I cannot find statistics reciting the numbers and nationalities of people who go abroad each year, but from my experience as a backpacker and Kiva fellow, most people who travel (either for leisure, student exchange or professional duties) come from one of the 32 developed countries (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, NZ, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, US (see the World Factbook for more information). This means that essentially, over 80% of the world’s population, over 5 billion people, have never visited another country!

It is only recently that the reality of how lucky I am has crept through. I hail from a country where incomes are high compared to the cost of necessities and where opportunities to earn are abundant (yes, even in this downward economy). I am not constrained by family obligations or fiscal responsibilities for anyone but myself, and whereas my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are compelled by necessity to sacrifice for the sake of family, I carry the burden of individuality. How privileged I am!

But with privilege, there is responsibility. According to Peter Singer, the Utilitarian philosopher from Princeton University, we have an ethical duty to help others who’re less fortunate. His argument is this:

- Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad.

- If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.

- By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.

- Therefore, if you do not donate to aid agencies, you are doing something wrong.

Whether or not you concede his argument you are probably at least curious about how people in other regions of the world live since you’re reading the Kiva Fellows blog. If you’re an active Kiva lender I offer you my deepest appreciation! Each loan you’ve made will influence more people than you think: the borrower, their family, their community and the infinite number of individuals that these people will influence in the future.

Consider this quote by Mother Theresa: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Thanks for letting me share my experiences as a Kiva fellow with you these past 3 months. If you enjoy reading this blog, perhaps it’s time you became a Kiva fellow?

I leave you with a video of the son of a Kiva borrower playing the saz, a pluck stringed instrument from central Asia and singing a folk song about love and beauty in the town of Shusha (now occupied by Armenia). You may have noticed that many Azerbaijani borrower profiles mention music lessons for their children, now you know why ;-)  You can see the Azeri & Russian lyrics here.


Yelena Shuster has completed her placement at Komak Credit Union in Azerbaijan. You can join Komak’s lending team here, support Komak borrowers here, and read more about the Fellows program here.

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