Who Are Some of Maya’s Volunteers + What Do They Do?

By Kimberly Strathearn, KF 16/17, Turkey

Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” Anonymous

National Volunteer Week 2012 (April 15-21) has come and gone and despite my best intentions to post this blog during that week–it didn’t happen. But that does not mean I appreciate our SUPER Maya volunteers any less, in fact, I am going to use this blog as the perfect chance to brag about some of the individuals and schools that volunteer for Maya.  Some translate Maya Entrepreneur Profiles and Journal Updates from Turkish to English while others help out with more technical translations or other projects.

When I first started my Fellowship back in September 2011 with KF 16, I immediately recognized that since Maya is such a small program, the Kiva Coordinator is out in the field 3-4 days a week, and none of the loan officers speak English, we were going to need some help getting the profiles and journal updates translated.

Through some groups I belong to here in Istanbul, I sent out some notices seeking volunteers.  I was blown away by the response but shouldn’t have been because I know that volunteer opportunities can be hard to find and a logistical nightmare (traffic and Istanbul is a large city).

So without further delay, let’s see who are some of the volunteers that are vital to helping Maya and what they do:

Suzanne, profile translator

Suzanne, profile translator and coordinator

I translate Maya borrower profiles into English. I’m motivated to help Kiva because I believe in its microfinance work. When I first learned about the concept of microfinance I was skeptical. As a student of international relations I was used to looking at the big picture and didn’t think anything below the macroeconomic level was useful. I argued it was a waste of time until I came across Muhammed Yunus’ “Banker to the Poor.” Looking at the roots of the idea convinced me there was a need for small-scale banking services that was not being met. Lending small amounts primarily to women also targets gender inequality, another issue I’m passionate about, and empowering an under-served part of the population.

On a personal level, I felt volunteer work was something missing from my life in Turkey, and I enjoy learning about Maya borrowers, women who take charge of their own lives and pursue the things they want. Working with Maya and Kiva makes me feel more involved in my Turkish community, and that I’m doing something positive for women and sometimes overlooked communities.  (Suzanne is a pleasure to work with.  She is timely with her translations and she has agreed to coordinate the volunteer translators for Maya.  What that means is she will receive the profiles and journal updates from the Kiva Coordinator and send them out to the translators, once the translator send them back she will check them for accuracy and sent back to Maya for uploading to Kiva.  She is also co-captain of the Friends of Maya lending team and will be sending messages out to teams member when we are sending profiles to Kiva and when they actually start funding.  Thanks Suzanne!)

Susae, profile translator, at the KEDV Holiday Party

Susae, profile translator, at the KEDV Holiday Party

I translate profiles from Turkish into English for Maya, Turkey’s Kiva partner. I do this because I want help Turkish women, who are seriously underrepresented in the Turkish labor force, succeed in their business ventures and thus become more empowered in both their professional and personal lives.  (Susae is reliable, fun to work with and makes those 4 line long Turkish sentences with the verb at the end –smoother and flow better! She will be moving back to Washington DC this summer but will still be translating profiles–Yea Susae!)

Cigdem, does it all!

Cigdem, does it all!

I am retired and I have been working as a volunteer approximately for 5 years at KEDV. Mostly I do translations on various projects. Recently, I have starting doing translations for Maya, whatever is asked from me. If I can be of any help to the women in my country, I am honored.  (Cidgem is amazing, she is quick and willingly tackles tough assignments.  She lives in Izmir and I hope to meet her in person one day!)

Here are a few more volunteer who didn’t send me a picture but I still want to brag about them:

Ilhan-is our intercontinental volunteer, sometimes she is in Turkey, sometimes in the US and soon to be in Columbia helping her daughter’s family settle in to their 2 year assignment.  But alway just an email away.  Thanks Ilhan!)

M. Nedim- is my go to guy for rush translations.  I try to give the translators a minimum of a 2 day turn around but occasionally stuff happens (i.e. computer access problems, a profile is coming up on its eligibility date limit of 30 days from dispersal date, etc.).  I’ve probably sent him two or three rush jobs and he has always delivered.  Thank you Nedim!

Mary- She is American, married to a Turk and living in Istanbul for many years.  She took on the project of getting the participant release form (with a lot of legal jargon from English to Turkey) translated.  I am grateful that she stuck it out to the end–what we both thought would be rather straight forward turned out to involve having to have a notary translate it and then certify the translation creating a couple of months delay and unanticipated notary fees.  She generously paid the notary fees and then sent it by courier it to me.  Really can’t thank Mary enough for her determination to get this project done the right way!

Noma- She and her husband are Kiva Lenders.  Their wedding anniversary gift to each other is Kiva credit and they have been doing this for about 2 years.  She recently helped with a multi-year media search on Maya and The Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work in English to help support FSWW’s media refresh effort. Thanks Noma!

Welcome Vanessa, the newest member of the translating team. She has completed the training and while she is awaiting her first profile, Vanessa translated an  interview with Vasfiye for me that I hope to have ready soon.  Thank you Vanessa!

Koç High School:

Founded in 1988 by the Vehbi Koç Foundation, the Koç School has  become one of Turkey’s most selective and competitive university preparatory schools. It attracts an outstanding academic staff of Turkish and foreign teachers, and students who score at the highest levels of entrance examinations.

 The majority of Koç students come from the Istanbul area, although the school draws a substantial number from parts of Anatolia. While almost all of our students are Turkish, some English-speaking foreign nationals are admitted each year as guest students.

Annie’s LP5 class at Koç High School- Now I haven’t met Annie or any of her students. We did the profile translation training all on-line. I regret not being able to get out to Koç to meet the students but am thankful for the awesome job on translating at least 3 of the borrower profile as a class ! Thank You!

Pinar (in Administration at Koç) and her daughter, Senem,  did a great job on a profile and a couple of journal updates. Thank You!

Üsküdar American High School:

Established in 1876, Üsküdar is one of the oldest private schools in the region. It was founded by the American Board and now is governed by the Health and Education Foundation, a Turkish non-profit trust foundation.

The high school program is academic in nature and provides an English language, college preparatory program for Turkish students. Math and Science classes are taught in English and English is emphasized throughout the curriculum. Turkish Language and Literature as well as the Social Studies required courses are taught in Turkish. There also is an emphasis on learning a third language, French, Spanish, or German.

Hats off to Peg’s five delightful National Honors English Students: Yeşim, Kaan Murat, Alara, Gülsen and Yeşim (yes there are two Yeşims and both their last names start with the same letter). All have done at least two profiles (or journal Updates) that appeared on the Kiva website.  They work as individual and their turnaround time has been a fast as 7 minutes! Thanks for doing a super job!

Our agreement was for the students to commit to one semester and then we would evaluate how the experience was for both sides. I have recently heard from Peggy that the students want to do it again next Fall and other students have heard about the project and want to participate.  So she has asked if we would come back in September to do another presentation and training (now on Suzanne’s to do list).

Bilgi University:

Elif Ece, Melisa, and Ebru are third year economic students at Bilge University.  They found the time to translate profiles during their busy semester and for that I am grateful.  Melisa recently translated a video interview of Saniye who is the group leader of the Yunular group.  Since this video was shot, they have paid off their loan early.


Thank you Elif Ece, Ebru and Melisa!  Learn a little bit more about them in the video below.


My sincerest thanks to all the Maya volunteers.  You have been fantastic to work with.  All of your time and efforts were enormously helpful to Maya and it would have been much harder to post profiles to Kiva without you.  Thank you for partnering with us in our efforts to advance micro finance in Turkey, and women and their family’s economic well-being and quality of life.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you and keep up your amazing work!

Although this blog post is dedicated to Maya volunteers, I also want to acknowledge the excellent work of Kiva’s world-wide network of 450 volunteers that are passionate about Kiva’s mission of alleviating global poverty.  Click to see volunteer opportunities with Kiva.

Visit these blogs for more on Maya and Turkey:

Home to a New Adventure: Hoş Geldiniz Maya!

If It Is Thursday, It Must Be Sakarya + What is Bohça?

If it is Tuesday it must be Izmit +more of my favorite borrowers + buyurun agabey

Perks + Ataturk + My Hero

Junk Food +1,300 chefs + Edirne-Style Liver + Maya Food Entrepreneurs

If It is Wednesday, It Must Be Eskişehir + Eskişehir Entrepreneurs

Barrier + Solution = Groups Loans for Maya + Challenges Remain

Tulip Mania, Tulips are from Turkey not the Netherlands + Mays”s only florist + fast flower facts

Retail Consumers as Micro Lenders + What is FITE +Maya Entrepreneurs Supported by FITE

Kimberly Strathearn is a KF 16/17 serving in Istanbul with Maya. Kiva’s newest Field Partner in Istanbul, Turkey. To learn more about Maya and their clients, please visit their Partner Page, join our Friends of Maya Lending Team, or make a loan to one of their enterprising clients. Kimberly is a fan of giving Kiva Cards for just about every gift giving occasion. What could be better that giving the gift of helping someone?

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