Lasting Impressions of Microfinance

If you asked me what I have learned about microfinance during my Kiva Fellowship, I wouldn’t know where to start. I have learned that running a social business comes with its share of challenges. I have learned that technology will pave new ways for the future of microfinance. I have learned that the best microfinance organizations have their clients at the heart of all their activities. I could go on and on about my impressions of microfinance from the last six months…but in my final blog post, I will spare you. Instead, below I share with you my 5 favorite images (from the 1,667 photos I’ve taken here) of microfinance at work.

Johari, pictured here weaving, is one of the Kiva borrowers I met while working with Koperasi Mitra Usaha Kecil (MUK) in Bali. His business – making and selling bamboo housing materials – has grown over time and now serves neighboring villages. With his increased profits, he has been able to make significant improvements to his house, which is now a concrete structure with white-tiled floors. His story confirmed to me the powerful impact that microcredit can have.

Pictured here are members of the squirrel hunting self-help microfinance group I met while in Bali. Members of this group go hunting together every week to rid village gardens of squirrels that feed on coconuts. Owners of the land reward the group with coconuts for each pest killed – and the revenue from selling the coconuts and squirrels forms a fund from which members can borrow. This is one of the most unique forms of microfinance I’ve seen. Read more about it here.

In Bantayan, I had the opportunity to attend a Christmas Party put on by borrowers of NWTF, the MFI I am working with in the Philippines. NWTF fosters community among its clients – who are organized into centers of ~50 women, split into groups of 5 members each. Pictured here are borrowers playing the “tomato dancing” game at the Chistmas party. This game was a ton of fun – with pairs (representing each center) attempting to dance while keeping a tomato between their foreheads.

I took this photo when I entered my first center meeting in Cebu in the Philippines. Centers comprise ~50 borrowers who meet together weekly with their loan officer to discuss issues, and make repayments. The hut pictured here was constructed specifically for center members to meet together.

Erlinda is a strikingly beautiful Kiva borrower whom I met in Negros Occidental, Philippines. Her primary business is weaving nipa palm to make roofing materials – and she makes over 1,000 of these pieces in one week. She pours the profits of her business into the educational expenses of her six sons – hoping, like most parents around the world, that they will have a brighter future.

Joanne Gan is nearing the end of a rewarding six months working as a Kiva Fellow at Koperasi Mitra Usaha Kecil (MUK) in Bali, Indonesia and the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF) in Bacolod City, Philippines. She has learned a lot about microfinance during her fellowship, and hopes that she has given back to Kiva, NWTF, and MUK, as much as she has gained. This experience has confirmed to her that microfinance, under the right conditions, can make a significant difference in the lives of poor entrepreneurs. Make that difference now, and lend on Kiva.

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