By Kim Strathearn, KF16, Turkey

Unlike some of my KF16 fellows classmates, I did not have to rush to the bookstore to read up on the country where I was about to be posted, figure out if my cell phone would work overseas, or learn about internet capabilities because Istanbul has been my home for about the last 12 years.  I am lucky that I already have an apartment, know how to get around, know how to order what I want to eat and even knew where my MFI was located.  No panic attacks about my new location but lots of panic about blogging and about what my first blog should be on.

I thought maybe I could blog about the story behind the Turkish flag, about a historical figure, the Bosphorus Straits, or market day in my neighborhood…..

The Turkish Flag

To some a national hero and to others a Barbary Corsair

Hayreddin Barbarosso's tomb

The Maiden's Tower on the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus Strait divides Istanbul between the European and Asian Continents.

Ferries transport over a million people a day

Rice, beans and other grains

Various pickled vegetables

Porter for hire

Indecision was driving me nuts…. But after my short time spent at Maya it became clear that I needed to immediately introduce Maya and the incredibly dedicated staff.

Hoş Geldiniz Maya! (Welcome Maya!)

Maya's Office

Maya is Kiva’s first field partner in Turkey and posted its first loans
in August 2011. Since Maya is a new partner, my role will be working with them  to transition from pilot to active status. See this recent post from another KF16 Fellow, Tejal Desai, in Sierra Leone who wrote an excellent description of what this process entails.

Maya Enterprise for Microfinance is an independent for-profit NGO  that was established in 2002 and works under the umbrella of the Foundation for  the Support of Women’s Work (FSWW), a Turkish NGO.

Maya provides group and individual loans to low-income women who lack access to credit in order to start or improve their own small scale-businesses. Maya also provides emergency loans to existing clients who urgently  need funds for such needs as health care, school fees, or maintenance for their  homes.

Maya’s operational style is very hands-on and time intensive. Loan  officers come from the communities Maya serves and are in frequent one-on-one  contact with their client beginning with the loan application process through to their final repayment. Loan officers go beyond providing credit, they also  help clients access support to resolve personal issues, access buyers for their  products and much more.

Maya is headquartered in Istanbul  with a staff of about 11 spread throughout their network of branches in  Kocaeli, Sakarya/ Duzce, Kartal, and Eskişehir.   For more information visit Maya’s partner page.

As I get out into the field and visit the branch offices, I will  be introducing the branch office staff to you. But for now, let’s meet the Istanbul office:

Aylin Tuncel, Director of Maya

Asu Aksoy, Operations Manager and Kiva Coordinator

Aylin and Asu are true road warriors as they are out visiting the other branches to approve loans applications four days a week.

Şenay Çevik, Operations and Branch Supervisor

Şemsettin Aslanyavrusu, Maya's fearless driver

Şenay was a loan officer but now manages the branch offices taking care of the files and reports from the field offices as well as repayments, and much much more.
Şemsettin is the office driver and helps out with other tasks around the office. He navigates Istanbul’s chaotic traffic with nerves of steel and knows all the short cuts!

I have come home to Istanbul to start a new adventure as a Kiva Fellow with Maya.  I feel incredibly privileged to work with Maya and am excited to learn all I can while I am here.

Kim Strathearn is a Kiva Fellow serving in Istanbul with Maya.  Kiva’s newest Field Partner in Istanbul, Turkey.  To learn more about  Maya and their clients, please visit their Partner Page, join our newly created  Friends of Maya Lending Team, or make a loan to one of their awesome clients.


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