Featured Volunteer: Joe Castrovinci's 6 years and counting of volunteer editing

“I think Kiva is a great group, and I’ve never felt like I’m done with it. I received a Kiva Volunteer tote bag some time ago and when I take it to the supermarket, people will strike up conversations with me about Kiva. They are always so positive and will say things like, “I’m really glad you volunteer for them.” It’s also great when you tell people about Kiva who don’t know what it is – it doesn’t happen often in San Francisco – and you just see their eyes light up.” - Joe Castrovinci

City: San Francisco, California
Language: English
Team: Loanly Planet
Time with Kiva: 6 years, 3 months

Outstanding contributions to Kiva: Joe joined Kiva as a volunteer editor in July 2007, and has edited more than 3,670 loans since then. That’s about 50 loans a month for the last six years! Joe is one of the most longstanding volunteers in the Review and Translation Program. His extensive travel experiences, particularly in Southeast Asia, are what have kept him motivated to give so much of his time to Kiva.

Here’s a short Q&A with this committed volunteer.

How did you find out about Kiva?
I read the New York Times every day and there was an article in which Nicholas Kristof (author of Half the Sky) talked about Kiva. In the article, he talks about how he had lent money and then gone to visit the borrower – it was a baker across the world in Asia. I was very taken by two things. First of all, it was an interesting story, but second, the whole notion of Kiva was very, very clever and an effective use of the internet. I hadn’t seen the internet used in that way before and I just thought it was a brilliant idea.

Why did you choose to volunteer your time with Kiva?
One thing that got me motivated and still keeps me motivated is that I love to travel. The place where I’ve travelled the most, and which keeps me involved, is Southeast Asia – including Myanmar, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal. When you are there, you see up close how people live and the problems they deal with. I believe that if I had not gone there and seen how people live firsthand, I might have lost motivation. But when you see people coping with their day-to-day existence, as in, “I need to make enough money today so that I can eat,” you know that if you could help these people, you would.

What is your favorite partner or region?
My favorite region is Cambodia, and Southeast Asia generally. I’ve been to some of the core villages in Cambodia and have witnessed the kind of poverty that is hard to imagine unless you’ve been there. I also went to Myanmar in February for a whole month. I would love it if Kiva started lending there – the country is so beautiful and just starting to open up.

Tell us about a memorable profile you have reviewed.
The ones that stay with me the most are some of the group loans which give you a picture of the conditions that people are coping with. For example, when you see borrowers asking for a little bit of money for some fertilizer or to buy farm animals. These are things that I’ve seen up close and so they always stand out in my mind.

Where is your favorite place in the world to travel?
There are so many. Bora Bora, Tahiti, and Asia overall, especially Thailand or maybe Japan. I really like Buddhist cultures; they are so different from anyplace else. One of the interesting things about travelling in Japan is the people-watching, because the customs are so very different. I also love Bhutan and Myanmar, which are both really incredible, beautiful places. I want to get to Africa next year, as I’ve never been there before.

Tell us an unusual or surprising fact about yourself.
I do most of my volunteering with an organization called the SETI Institute, which is short for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” They’re experiencing flat or declining public funding, and they are increasing their social media presence to try to counteract this. I work on their Twitter feed and I’m about to start editing my third book for them – a collection of academic papers.

Are you interested in volunteering with Kiva’s Review and Translation Program? Read more about the program and check out our current opportunities here

About the author

Aesclinn Donohue