By Andrea Ramirez, KF 16, El Salvador & Costa Rica.
I love hot water.
I also love designated bus stops, and having lunch with co-workers..not at my desk.
I love the noise that the leaves of plantain trees make when the wind hits them.
I love having a garbage removal service..instead of having to burn the garbage to get rid of it.
I love the smile on a borrower´s face when they´re told their loan will be disbursed in a couple of days, or when I show them what their profile on Kiva.org looked like.
I love how the face of a borrower lights up when I ask about their business.
I love being trapped in a vehicle with a loan officer for hours, and learning why they took on the job in the first place – and why are they still at it.
I love talking to the head of a microfinance institution and poke at what the future looks like for their organization, what are their challenges, and trying to understand why things are the way they are.
It took me four months, probably 100 hrs on a bus, many dead bugs, and two countries to realize how much I love these and many other things.
In the process I´ve had to let go of many other things I also love. Little things like a dryer for my clothes, and big things like people and relationships. I am shocked by how quickly these last few months have gone by. More than anything, I am in owe of the people I´ve met and what I´ve leared from them. I am humbled and thankful for the experience I´ve had as a Kiva Fellow, and without a doubt this is the best thing I could have ever done. I know my work in El Salvador and Costa Rica is far from over, and that the relationships I´ve made in the region will last beyond my fellowship. I also thank you, the people who have supported the MFIs I´ve worked with (Fundacion Campo and Fundacion Mujer) by making loans to their clients on Kiva.
If there is anything that will always remain with me after this experience is the fact that we can all do something to help make the world a better place for those who have been less fortunate (and future generations). I don´t mean it in a paternalistic way, but really thinking about how we can do a little something to bridge the gap between what government and capitalism have accomplished so far, and what still needs to be done. I believe in paying it forward with more than good intentions. You don´t need to leave your home and your loved ones to volunteer abroad to do so (although if you can, and you find the right fit for you, do it!). You can, from the comfort of your home, make a $25 loan to a microentrepreneur anywhere in the world through Kiva, or give a Kiva giftcard to someone you love for the holidays. The impact of microloans and microfinance overall continues to be a controversial topic. And although I´ve confirmed that microfinance is not the panacea for inequality and poverty, I´ve also confirmed it can be a very efficient tool when paired with other mechanisms. Particularly, when paired with people with the undying desire to innovate for a better future. A future when the little things are available and enjoyable for most of the world.
Andrea was part of the awesome 16th class of Kiva Fellows working in El Salvador and Costa Rica. She is sad to leave Central America, and thankful to those who helped make her fellowship possible. Please support Kiva´s mission by making a loan on Kiva.org – it´s super easy!