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Georgia on my mind

Georgia has one of the oldest histories of any country on Earth. In fact, the recent discovery of 8,000-year-old storage containers show that Georgians may be the first inventors of wine. For that alone, we thank them. Despite neighbors that have tried to conquer them for centuries, they have maintained a unique culture. Situated in the Caucuses right where Europe meets Asia, Georgians have borrowed from many cultures that have traveled through their land along the Silk Road. Here’s Georgia’s location:

Their impressive history lasts for thousands of years. As a Kiva Fellow, I was lucky enough to visit Georgia and view some of this history. Shown below, the stone towers behind me in Mestia date back to the 12th century and were used for defensive purposes when their village was raided. The village is full of them. How amazing is it that they are still standing?!

Despite its long history, Georgia has not always managed to maintain its political independence. The Red Army Invasion of 1921 brought them under Soviet rule for the next 70 years. Eventually, after the iron curtain fell, Georgia regained its independence in 1991. Ever since then, they have made a concerted effort to pivot west and embrace western economics and attitudes. They dream of one day joining the European Union and taking advantage of the freedom of trade and travel that opportunity would provide. 

Currently, however, their economy is still struggling to adapt to the free market system after years of soviet control. With an average annual income of just $6,100, it is not always easy to make ends meet. The major industries are services, agriculture (including wine production) and tourism.  People dream of a better life for their children, but it is not always possible because education is not free. 

That’s where Credo comes in. Credo Bank is Kiva’s largest partner in Georgia, and has been a Kiva partner for over 8 years. Credo recognized that struggling students required education loans, but Credo's existing funding sources could not provide such specialized long-term loans. By partnering with Kiva, they were able to create a higher-education loan product which has been able to help pay for over 100 students’ school fees and provide them the skills needed to enter a demanding workforce. 

One example is Khvicha. While in Georgia, I met Khvicha at the Batumi State Maritime Academy where he is studying to become an engineer for Georgia’s merchant fleet. 

“I always wanted to work on a ship,” Khvicha told me, “but my parents did not have enough money to pay for my education. I love my Credo loan because I only have to pay interest while I am in school. Once I graduate and get a job I can pay back the rest. It’s a great program.”   

Here is Khvicha outside the academy:

Over the next year, Credo plans to expand its reach to provide even more student loans in Georgia. They have committed a significant marketing budget to reach more students and they have requested a higher overall loan limit from Kiva for their higher-education loan product. With impeccable funding rates and loan repayment rates, it is a loan product everyone can be proud of.

Kiva lenders love to fund these loans and Kiva borrowers love the opportunity to truly improve their lives. You too can help by visiting the Credo page on Kiva and making a loan to a deserving student. Thanks! 

About the author

Kevin Dougherty

Kevin was born in the U.S. in Missouri. He pursued his undergraduate education at Georgetown University, majoring in Finance in Accounting. At Georgetown he was active in AIESEC, an organization dedicated to peace and positive impact through personal development and shared global experiences. He obtained his CPA certification while working in New York and promptly decided to travel around the world for two years, living mainly in developing countries. Upon moving to California, he worked in accounting, financial audit, and internal controls, with assignments that frequently involved international travel. Having learned about microfinance at Georgetown, Kevin has always been intrigued by the concept and finally decided to enter the field. In order to obtain lending experience, Kevin worked for four years as the Quality Assurance Manager at an independent mortgage company in San Diego. When he learned about the Kiva Fellowship, he knew it was the perfect opportunity to put his past skills and experience to work. His ultimate goal is to combine his love of business, travel, cultural experiences, and social entrepreneurship into a lasting and meaningful career.