A Healthy Dose of Optimism

From the first time I happened across the Kiva Fellows website, I knew I had to apply.  Here was an opportunity to witness first-hand the successes and challenges of microfinance (the most promising poverty alleviation strategy I’ve come across), become fluent in French, and be a part of the cross-cultural, astonishingly successful microlending revolution that is Kiva!!  I generally tend to be somewhat pessimistic – my personal motto is “Expect the worst, and you’ll never be disappointed.”  This time, however, against my better judgment, I let myself get excited.

A year and a half later, that excitement has paid off. I am now at the Kiva Fellows training in San Francisco, spending hours showering Matt and Premal, Kiva’s Founder and President, with every question I’ve ever had about the organization.  At the week-long training, 29 other Fellows-to-be and I are cramming our heads with everything there is to know about Kiva before jumping on planes to work with Field Partners all across the globe.

As I said, my high expectations coming into the training conflicted with my standard self-preserving pessimistic attitude.  But this time, counter to my personal motto, high expectations left me far from disappointed.  On the contrary, learning more about Kiva and meeting the staff has reinforced my enthusiasm for Kiva’s mission and potential.  These days, it’s hard to believe in anything for fear of being naive, but the entire staff at Kiva seems to have conquered that fear – along with the 300,000-plus people who lend on Kiva’s site!

On November 3rd, I will leave the US to serve Kiva for 3 months in Togo and 3 months in Senegal.  Inevitably, no matter how many questions we Fellows ask and how much training we receive, we won’t be prepared for what we are about to experience in the coming months.  All we can do is pack our bags and – dare I say it – hope for the best.


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