Sipping coffee in the lobby of the Metro Centre Hotel, I waited patiently to be greeted by my new co-workers from Community Economic Ventures (CEV) here in Tagbilaran. I assumed I would be easy to spot – lone white guy with luggage – but some 20 minutes past our designated meeting time I started to get worried. As it turns out, they had been doing some worrying of their own while they waited in the opposite lobby just out of sight. We may have started off with a stumble, but otherwise things here are off to a running start.
CEV is headquartered here in Tagbilaran City on the island of Bohol in the southern Philippines but has 17 branches throughout the islands. While they are still in pilot phase and just started offering loans through Kiva less than 2 months ago, they’ve already become remarkably competent with the processes. Several branches have been identified as Kiva branches and we will be traveling over the next two months to train staff, interview borrowers and establish the value of affiliating with Kiva.
In early February I’ll be traveling to Mindanao which is the southernmost province in the Philippines and visiting branches in Agusan Del Sur and South Cotabato. Portions of Mindanao have been deemed unsafe as ‘conflict areas’ due to activities of separatist groups while other areas have recently flooded. But it’s important to note that the island of Mindanao alone is larger than Ireland and isn’t universally dangerous. In fact, the annual Billabong Cloud 9 surfing competition is held every year in Siargao. The remainder of my time will be spent visiting branches throughout Bohol which is known as home to the Chocolate Hills and miniature Tarsiers.
So, while my microfinance partner here is full steam ahead, I’m recovering from jet lag and travel fatigue hoping to keep up with the young, energetic staff here. I’ll be posting more about progress here in the weeks to come. In the meantime you can show support for CEV by joining the Kiva lending team found here: http://www.kiva.org/community/viewTeam?team_id=2754/>