The Forest Through the Trees

By Bryan Goldfinger, KF10 Nicaragua

Several days ago I woke up at 4:30 in the morning because my high-power fan, which I position directly on me, three feet from my bed, had blown my sheet and fitted sheet completely off the mattress (yeah, I was confused too).  In order to put an end to the hectic sheet flapping, I switched off the fan. Once I had restored order to my bed, I found a comfortable position and tried to go back to sleep. Then, two things happened that very quickly alerted me to the fact that I had forgotten to turn the fan back on. The first was that I had broken a sweat just lying in bed. The second was that I noticed a barrage of sounds that, up until that point, had been drained out by the fan. Most notable were the roosters, but there were also dogs, sirens and the periodic whistle of the “guard” that sits a couple houses down from mine and keeps watch over the street. I could hear the cars from the main drag, running water, a cat walking on my roof and a number of other sounds, which I still have not been able to identify. As I lay there, I realized I had been in Managua, Nicaragua for two weeks and never noticed these sounds.

At this point, I am hot, sweaty, wide-awake and thinking. Not a good equation for sleep, but the thought process that followed has been in the back of my mind since then, and I think it is worth repeating. It started with the realization that I had been completely missing the sounds that surround me every night. Then I began to think of other times in my life when I had neglected to notice important things that were right in front of me (there were more than I care to admit). I thought about the reasons that I was unable to see these things. I thought about the fact that this was quite a long thought process I was experiencing, and that it might be worth blogging about. Which got me started thinking about Kiva, which got me thinking about transparency, which led to thoughts of interest rates, whether microfinance institutions should have the option to cover their borrowers when they default, currency risk, journals, borrower verification, borrower profiles, client protection, social performance monitoring…I realized I was now sweating profusely.

I got up, turned the fan on and returned to bed. Before I slipped back into a deep sleep, I realized that this thought process had, in a roundabout way, come back to square one. There is so much that goes into Kiva, that it becomes incredibly easy to forget the big picture.

Kiva’s greatest blessing and its greatest curse is that everyone involved is extremely passionate about Kiva.  So passionate, that every single decision that is made is analyzed and re-analyzed, then turned on its head and looked at from seven different points of view, and alas, an action is taken…sometimes. Then that action goes through an even more in depth critique by thousands more people (primarily lenders and other Kiva/microfinance enthusiasts), equally passionate, and many of those people email or call or blog or comment on blogs to express their approval or disapproval of the decision. Then based on the response, sometimes the whole process starts anew. For better or worse, this is how most decisions go at Kiva.

One thing every single one of these extremely passionate people has in common is that at some point or another, we all had our first visit to During that visit, something clicked.  Something piqued our interest enough to make us want to get involved. That reason is unique for all of us, and the level of involvement we chose is different as well.

Since my first visit to, I have seen numerous issues that have spurred extremely emotional confrontations (usually taking place on the internet arena, but not always), with varying results, some positive, some negative, some still to be determined. Recently, in particular, there seems to be much harrumph about decisions that have been made or will soon be put into action. The passionate discussions that take place around these issues are extremely vital, and at the very least, serve to keep Kiva honest. However, it becomes very easy to get wrapped up in our emotions and forget the basics.

In light of all this, I think it is a healthy exercise to think back to your first visit to, to remember the emotions you experienced, and not to forget to see the forest through the trees. Undoubtedly, things have changed since then, maybe you have learned information about the way Kiva operates, or the powers that be have made decisions that have changed your perspective or made you question the integrity of the organization. But if your reading this blog, I would be willing to bet that there is still some spark in your relationship with Kiva, and I urge you to remember what it was that originally caused that spark.

It’s a fact of life that as things grow, they get more complicated, and Kiva definitely has, but let us not forget the reasons we all got involved to begin with.

Bryan Goldfinger is a Kiva Fellow serving his second placement with AFODENIC in Nicaragua. Click here for a list of AFODENIC borrowers currently on Kiva or click Amigos de AFODENIC to join the AFODENIC lending team.

About the author