So what does week one of being a Kiva fellow entail? I can’t guarantee that this will be typical – we are all in very different places around the world, but for me…

Day One: I arrived at Entebbe airport Uganda. Found a taxi to take me into Kampala, to my new abode, met my new flatmates, and went to sleep. Don’t worry the week gets a little more exciting after this!!

Day Two; Comparison number one: The art of getting to work is VERY different to my home town of New Zealand, and a little different to the Philippines where I last worked as a Kiva fellow. After a hair-raising trip to work on the back of a Boda Boda or motorcycle taxi (I wasn’t wearing a helmet so my hair was blowing in the breeze) I started at Pearl Microfinance. Pearl is one of the longest standing and largest Kiva partner Microfinance Institutes (MFI). Here I met 30 something Ugandans, remembered about 5 names, and forgot the other 25 (note I have improved throughout the week). I met Grace, Pamela and Richard who were all responsible for Kiva related duties and who I would be working closely with.

Day Three: I started to familiarize myself with Kiva processes and how Pearl does things differently to the last MFI that I worked with (Community Economic Ventures (CEVI)) . I ate some matoke (a kind of mashed banana dish), rice, cassava, pumpkin and fish.

Day Four: I watched stunned as Pamela packed up her things. Her contract had expired, and while she thought it would be renewed, this was not the case. I felt sad as someone that I had just started building a rapport with was leaving so soon. I started reading some statistics about Ugandan employment rates. Uganda has a very high youth unemployment rate and it is especially hard for university graduates to get jobs following their tuition. I just gave up a fairly good engineering work to become a volunteer with Kiva and I wondered if they thought I was crazy.

In the evening we went to the national theatre in Kampala to watch the movie Imani. This was an amazing Ugandan movie about 3 different lives in various parts of the country.

Day Five: Still getting to know the office, processes, finding my feet, riding crazy boda-bodas to work. I invested in a helmet (wise), and noticed how many people in Uganda don’t ride with a helmet. I also noted that the life expectancy in Uganda is 53 years old, compared with 80 in New Zealand. I felt sad as both my parents are over this age and I expect them to be alive in 20 years, I couldn’t imagine not.

Day Six: We started to work through some issues with repayment reporting. Suddenly it was Friday and I’d just finished my first week at Pearl Microfinance. I went home and slept!

Day Seven: I went into the office in the morning as we were still working through repayment reports. I made a few of the people in my office some sammies, as after 5 servings of matoke and rice I felt like something different. In the afternoon we drove to Ggaba on Lake Victoria and I started to get acquainted with Kampala. I visited Pamela’s house and we went out for pork and a few drinks to end the week. Ugandans seem to enjoy going out on the weekend, they like dancing and having fun.

Today – Day Eight: I learnt a few facts about the boda driver I have been using today. He is currently hiring the bike he drives for 10,000UGX per day. He makes about 20,000UGX per day, so 10,000UGX ($4.50USD) after paying for the bike. He has one big aim in life at the moment, and that is to buy a bike in order to double his income each week. He is looking into microfinance options to fund this plan; and his hopeful that he can stop living from day to day, and worrying about the future. This is good to hear.

If you want to get to know a foreign culture and work in microfinance for 3 months please join the Kiva fellows program asap!

If you want to help people like my boda driver please donate on the Kiva website asap!

PS I’m calling all you others to follow suit, let’s share our ‘week ones’ and give people a glimpse into the life of a Kiva fellow.

Anna Cleal is working as Kiva fellow at Pearl Microfinance Limited in Kampala, Uganda. Throughout her time in the field she will also be visiting Brac Uganda and MCDT SACCO.


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