By Kelsey Quam, KF12, Ecuador
After attending an exciting week of training in San Francisco, a wave of 37 new Kiva Fellows has been pouring into new places across the globe. The emails we exchange as we transition into the field reflect both excitement and hesitation. What am I forgetting on my packing list? Am I prepared to work in microfinance? How will my MFI receive me?
My first week at Cooperative San Jose in Ecuador was different than my expectations. When I arrived to the office on Monday morning, I didn’t start to work right away. Instead, I was led up and down 3 flights of stairs to meet, shake hands, and try to memorize the names of the 30+ people that would become my friends for the next 3 months. Given the series of introductions and technology problems (there is no wifi in the office and I was sharing an internet cable), Monday was an exciting first day different from my expectations.
On Tuesday, I set out for a branch office in the town of Chillanes (an hour and a half from Chimbo) with a loan officer. After stopping for homemade tortillas and coffee along the highway, I made my first contact with a group of 15 Kiva borrowers that belong to a loan group called a “ventanilla rural.” The loan officer and I worked together to record borrowers’ personal and business stories, the impact of the Kiva loan on their business, and their future business and family aspirations. Back in the office, I posted this information along with a photo of the borrower to the Kiva website where the loan will be soon be open to funding by lenders.
On Thursday I receive a phone call from a loan officer who said he would be traveling to a community meeting in 5 minutes! I grab my backpack and travel by taxi to meet him. Here I worked with the current KF11, Aurelie Dagneaux, to complete the cooperative’s second-to-last borrower verification that is part of the process of my MFI to achieve active status with Kiva.
Cooperative San Jose is based in the small rural town of San Jose de Chimbo (commonly called Chimbo). The majority of its Kiva borrowers take loans for agricultural purposes. They grow corn, potatoes, cacao, and occasionally bananas, maracuya, and coffee throughout the region. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the cooperative’s lending team: