Updates from the Field: Loan Sharks, Snapshots + “the Country with a Smile”

Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF15, Ecuador

by John Gwillim, Colombia

Each Kiva borrower enjoys his or her own borrower profile page. We’ve all seen these pages: they acquaint us with the borrower’s story, plans for the future, country, and a photo in their business or home. Borrower profiles present us with a clear snapshot of the ebbs and flows of a borrower’s life. But how can we begin to flesh out what’s beyond the edges of the screen? On the Fellow’s blog, of course!

This week Kiva Fellows bring us a little closer to our borrowers. We try to walk in the shoes of those living under a dollar a day in Nicaragua. We learn about the power of accredited microfinance institutions for the average Ecuadorian. We get a glimpse (and a sample!) of traditional El Salvadorian fare. We marvel at brilliant images of borrowers in their element in Chile and Colombia. And finally we depart Latin America for Senegal, where a Latin phrase can teach us about entrepreneurs the world over: they can, because they think they can. And they do, just as soon as they have the capital to do it.

One Dollar Per Day, A Beginner’s Guide (Part 2)
Country: Nicaragua / Fellow: Jason Jones, KF15

This is the second post from Jason in a two-part series, which discusses the reality of living under a dollar a day in Managua, Nicaragua. Jason breaks down a few of the many challenges of living below the poverty line, including its impact on education, access to transportation and clothing oneself, and just what an average day of work might look like.

Top 10: My Favorite Borrower Photos from Chile and Colombia
Country: Chile and Colombia / Fellow: John Gwillim, KF14 & KF15

During his two fellowship placements with Kiva, John has met with hundreds of borrowers in Chile and Colombia. But as he finishes up his second placement, John shares his top ten favorite photographs from the field.

Loan Sharks, Microloans and the Highest Interest Rates Around (they aren’t on Kiva)
Country: Ecuador / Fellow: Kate Bennett, KF15 & KF16

On a routine borrower visit, Kate’s interview with Marcia reveals the harsh alternative to lending from groups like Kiva’s Field Partners. When accredited microfinance institutions are unable to reach borrowers (or the other way around), entrepreneurs must turn to loan sharks, high interest rates, and the very real dangers of illegal lending.

Possunt Quia Posse Videntur
Country: Senegal / Fellow: Tim Young, KF15

As Tim wraps up three months’ work in Senegal, he continues to be amazed by the innovation, enthusasim, and pertinacity of Kiva borrowers. They can because they think they can, they just need to capital to get there.

Everything is Sweeter in El Salvador
Country: El Salvador / Fellow: Andrea Ramirez, KF16

Andrea touches down in El Salvador to begin her fellowship with Kiva and introduces us to one of the most gratifying aspects of working in “the country with a smile”- the food!

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Updates from the past month:

Cooking Classes, Autarky + Social Performance
Motorcycles, Ramadan + A Dollar a Day
Working Animals, Green Microfinance + The Ends of the Earth
Poverty Assessments, Bush Taxis + Meeting “My” Borrower
Externalities, New Faces + Loans that Change Lives

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Plus more pictures (and videos!) from the past week:


by John Gwillim, Colombia

by John Gwillim, Chile

by John Gwillim, Colombia

by Tim Young, Senegal


About the author

Kate Bennett

Prior to working with Kiva, Kate lived in Quito, Ecuador working in environmental management as a consultant for USAID implementing partners in the global south. After earning her B.A. in Political Economy, Postcolonial History, and Development from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in January 2010, she pursued a practice-based understanding of effective tools in development through work with New York based social change organizations and grassroots nonprofit organizations in Guatemala. Kate worked previously with Kiva as a Kiva Fellow in Ecuador and Peru, which fomented her commitment to microfinance as a tool for poverty alleviation.