(Left to right) Mary, Sive Chheng, Amy, and more MAXIMA rockstars!

By Mary Riedel, KF9/10

One day in the beginning of my fellowship at Maxima (one of Kiva’s Microfinance Partner’s in Cambodia), a former Kiva Fellow, Amy Killian, stopped by. She had returned to Cambodia on a payroll!

The staff was so happy to see Amy. There were hugs and laughs and stories retold; I was happy to be a witness. Most importantly the reunion gave me hope. I was so inspired that Amy made it back, and I was dying to know how she did it. For most Kiva Fellows I think the number one question from our MFI’s is, “When are you coming back!” Personally, the question is so hard to answer because the reality is that Asia is really far away.  I know I’ll be back, I just don’t know when.

I had so many questions for Amy but I didn’t wan to drill her, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone, satiate my curiosity and get some blog materials at the same time so I took out a little interview I had been preparing for another former fellow which never happened.

Interview with: Amy Killian, KF7, Cambodia

Question: Did being a Kiva Fellow change your career path?

Answer: No, not really. I graduated from Davidson with a degree in Political Science and Southeast Asian Studies where I completed an independent research project combining the two areas. I’ve sort of always been involved in Democracy and Human Rights Issues.  But the Kiva Fellowship did give me the opportunity to do intense field research and see an unfiltered view of Cambodia and Cambodians. It enriched my view of social institutions, to see their lack of empowerment. It validated a lot of what I thought, that a connection on the ground is critical to making a social impact. From that perspective it informs me every day.

Question: Did having Kiva on your resume help open doors for you that might have otherwise been shut?

Answer: Yes, I think the field experience did (open doors) but not just the field experience. It also showed that I was able to communicate with another culture, which also helps me every day. (Amy currently works  in Washington DC for  Freedom House an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights).

Question: Is there anything you learned about yourself during the Kiva Fellowship?

Answer: Yes, “Straws and Sandpaper” (click to read her blog)- that you can go without things (straws), that all you really need are basic amenities, and I went through daily frustrations, like trying to sleep  (sandpaper) which made me realize what a buffer zone I have at home.

Question: What was your “Kodak moment” – an image you can recall very clearly in your mind that tells a bit about your experience at Maxima?

Answer: After the Kien Svay branch opening at Maxima we went out dancing at Sparks and it was the first when I felt very much a part of the culture.  I worked hard with them everyday on certain issues and now I was out laughing with them, I was integral to the staff.

Question: In what ways has belonging to the Kiva Network helped you?

Answer: It helped me while I was in Cambodia of  course, there were a bunch of fellows in Cambodia while I was there. I learned a lot about what the fellows had to offer…I obviously didn’t come from a finance/banking background. So some of them where like mentors. It was a great support system, all of us working on the same issues. We had a lot of dinner parties, in fact I met my boyfriend Benny there. One of my friends, Sara,  also did Kiva but we were friends before I did the fellowship – she’s working in philanthropic consulting now. Come to think of it, one of the guys I work with at Freedom House was a Kiva Fellow at one point too. I guess there is a Kiva thread weaving through in my network.

Thanks Amy! As I say goodbye to MAXIMA I hope the opportunity to return to Asia lies ahead on my path. For now I’m signing off having finished KF9 in the Philippines at ASKI and KF10 in Cambodia at MAXIMA. On thing I can say right now is that doing the Kiva fellowship showed  me that it’s never to late to pursue something you ‘ve been dreaming about. It was a wonderful and rich experience in so many ways. So I’m off to Guatemala to study Spanish (another thing i thought it was too late for – by the way I’m 32 – I’m so dramatic it probably sounds like I’m 60). Both my fellowships cemented how important it is to be able to communicate in more than one language, especially in the field I have entered, and how much I like it. As my Venezuelan Aunt says, “Nunca es tarde cuando la dicha es buena!” It’s never to late when there is love.


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