This is my first blog as a kiva fellow and as an individual, so perhaps I will use this time to introduce myself to anyone in the internet community who would like to know. I am Jen McQuhae, 22, from Vancouver Island, Canada. I recently completed a four year honours degree in international development with a major in economics at the University of McGill in Montreal. I have been fortunate enough to spend a great deal of my recent past travelling to a number of countries and working in a variety of contexts. My last adventure was to Kenya and Tanzania where I worked in HIV clinics, public schools and orphanages. I have recently been accepted to the Kiva Fellows Program and will be heading to Cameroon to work with an organization called GHAPE in a couple of weeks.
If you have no idea what Kiva is and what they do, stop reading this blog. Go to their website, right now. I’m serious, kiva.org. It is the most amazing non-profit out there. I know I may be a somewhat biased opinion on that, considering I am working for them at this point. But its true. Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows individuals to lend money to individuals in developing countries who would not otherwise have access to credit. This money is used to expand their businesses, whether it be through the purchase of a new cow, or a fridge, these people are able to do so much with these smalls loans, ideally helping them to move to a higher income bracket. Kiva works with partner microfinance institutions (MFI), who are already overseas and have been working to expand credit and often other financial services to the poor. They allow these MFIs to choose the clients they would like displayed and funded on Kiva, and to provide the information Kiva requires to create a profile on these clients. Kiva will only fund up to 30% of an MFIs client base, as they don’t want the MFI to become too dependent on Kiva. Everything at Kiva is done in the most sustainable way possible.
We (the fellows) have spent the past four days training at the head office in San Francisco to prepare for our postings all over the world. There are 30 of us, from all different backgrounds with varied goals and passions. It is really inspiring to see such a vibrant group of individuals come together for a cause like this. Howerver, the staff at Kiva have really impressed me and made me feel hugely connected to the Kiva cause. I have never seen such a high energy and postive group of individuals working towards such a great cause. Everyone at the office has been so eager to improve Kiva and receive feedback, it truly is wonderful to see. It is strange how attached I have become to Kiva in just four days of training, I cannot imagine how obsessed I will be when I return from working overseas.
I should probably leave it at that considering it is 5 AM right now, and I need to wake up soon to get ready for my last day of training with Kiva. I will be posting a number of updates from Cameroon on this blog; the easiest way to find the posts it seems is to click on either GHAPE or Cameroon from the right hand Categories list on this website. I am new to all this blogging stuff, but I am excited to be sharing the stories and experiences with people across the globe. Well, see you in Cameroon!/>