Giving thanks for new friends, eye-opening experiences and connecting across cultures

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and working for an organization like Kiva provides a unique opportunity to reflect on gratitude. We asked our current fellows class, KF31, who have been in the field for about 3 months now, what they are more appreciative of now that they’ve been experiencing life in a new country. Here are their responses:

Lisa Demarco, Vietnam: I'm extremely thankful to have the opportunity to witness Kiva's profound impact in the field and to get to meet Kiva's hardworking, generous and grateful borrowers. After I met with this Lao ethnic minority borrower in Dien Bien province, she handed me a flower to thank Kiva and Kiva's lenders for helping her and her family obtain a small loan for a machine that helps them harvest corn and rice to feed their family and to sell.

Omika Jikaria, Cambodia: I am thankful to Kiva for providing me with a tremendous amount of support, resources and space to experience firsthand what it's like to work in the international development/social sector. Even though most of my hours are spent in cars traveling to meet borrowers, every trip is worth it. I am especially thankful for the work Kiva does to empower women and their families. The world order is changing and it's exciting to be working with an organization at the forefront of that change.

Janvi Gandhi, Peru: I am thankful to Kiva for the opportunity to nurture and absorb diversity through this fellowship in South America. I think that diversity as a value weighs the highest in this world that is becoming more closed, indifferent to "the other." And by diversity, I am referring to a whole range - flatmates and colleagues that I met in Bolivia and Peru, love for my landlord's dog; I wasn't such a big dog-lover before, cultural experiences through festivals, changing landscapes and finally, the diverse kinds of livelihoods practiced by Kiva borrowers. All this has helped me open my mind to the possibilities and challenges that exist in this world. It has pushed me to continue exploring, be humble and value this life for all these amazing, life-changing moments.

This was an important moment in my fellowship, this family of father and daughter - they farm, own a small grocery store at the back, take care of cows, sheeps, chanchos or pigs, even nurture stray birds. They were the first Kiva borrowers that I met and they won my heart!

Susan Patterson, Ghana: I'm thankful for an unexpected aspect of this experience: the friends I've made along the way, both my "fellow Fellows," as well as expats doing some really cool things in the development sector in Ghana. I was prepared to be inspired by my colleagues at the partner organizations I would be working with, and of course by the Kiva borrowers themselves, but I didn't anticipate how much these new friends would help make this experience even better.

Seth Broughton, El Salvador: I'm tremendously grateful for the opportunity Kiva has given me to work with their Field Partners in El Salvador. The people here endure some of the most difficult of circumstances and still approach every day positively. Kiva borrowers deal with an uncertain security situation which results in some having to pay "la renta" to the local gang or just seeing everyday violence (i.e. last week the police captain was assassinated blocks from the city hall). Their stories and general optimism have taught me to be grateful everyday.


Will Putnam, Liberia: I'm thankful for the opportunity to meet with such resilient and optimistic people in Liberia every day! I am also grateful for all of Kiva's support in handling problems that come up.

Thank you to KF31 for sharing your inspiring stories and reminding us that no matter where you are in the world, there’s always something to be grateful for!


About the author

Natalie Brown

Originally from Philadelphia, Natalie moved to San Francisco after graduating college to pursue her passion for helping people around the world. She received her B.A. in International Studies with a concentration in Africa from Elon University, and studied abroad twice during that time. Her love for Africa was solidified during her travels, first in Ghana where she visited schools and danced at durbars, then in Tanzania where she worked at a radio station and conducted field research in a village. A lover of languages, she can converse in French and Swahili (her favorite word being “bia”- beer), and she hopes to one day be in Senegal where she can speak French while living in Africa. It was in Tanzania that she first visited a microfinance institution, the Mama Bahati Foundation, which opened her eyes to the beauty of microfinance. Last summer, she canvassed for Doctors without Borders, and loved knowing she was working to help others. Now, she looks forward to the fulfilling work she will do at Kiva and to helping connect people around the world.