More than Microfinance: The Holistic Experience of a Kiva Fellow

By Jamie Greenthal | KF 17 | Philippines

Kiva Fellows get a front row seat to the delivery of microfinance services.  We live in small towns, rural villages, or big cities in developing countries, and work in the institutions that provide financial services to the poor.  We travel near and far to visit the borrowers who operate the businesses for which they’ve received loans from Kiva lenders.  We hear stories from business owners who take advantage of financial services to sustain and grow their enterprises, and create new opportunities for themselves and family members, such as affording their children’s school fees.  Despite the positive impact that financial services can have on the poor, it is only one out of many services on which they may rely to improve the quality of their lives.  Since I’m living in the Philippines, I felt compelled to discover how such other services are provided.  As with microfinance, I wanted a firsthand view.  I quickly realized that I didn’t have to go too far to find it.

Hanging with the Kalipay kids.

Recently, I’ve been spending some quality time with the kids who live in the homes that are supported by the Kalipay Negrense Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides financial, operational, and managerial assistance to several children’s homes in the Bacolod area.  The homes offer a permanent place to live for extremely disadvantaged, and in some cases abused, children, many of whom were previously living on the streets.  Kalipay works with the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to rescue kids who are living in these unsafe conditions.  My wife has been volunteering each day at one of the houses, Haven Home, so I’ve joined her on some evenings and weekends.  Needless to say, the kids are creative, engaging, and display a surprising amount of optimism despite the hardships they’ve endured and difficult environments from which they’ve come.

While a far different service from microfinance, Kalipay serves the poor as well; however, in this case it’s children, and not small business owners, who are the direct beneficiaries.  The kids are given the opportunity to have a safe and healthy place to live, and in the most critical situations, simply get the chance to live at all.

A home in Don Salvador, Negros.

On a recent Saturday I embarked on a service trip with the kids and staff members from Recovered Treasures, another home supported by Kalipay.  We piled into a van and drove a couple of hours to a communal area in Don Salvador, a municipality situated halfway up a mountain, to distribute food, donated clothing, and school supplies to families who live in hard-to-reach areas.  Some families walked for four hours up and down mountains and waded through rivers to reach the donation site.  After they received clothing and a meal, and the kids were handed the school supplies, the families embarked on their second four-hour trek of the day, but this time with bags hanging off each arm and pounds of clothing balanced on their heads.  The kids from Recovered Treasures and the local villagers make this trip each week.

Waiting to receive school supplies.

The first few steps of a long trek home.

What made this service unique is that those who are providing it are recipients themselves.  By spending a day aiding the disadvantaged in their area, Recovered Treasures kids gain confidence and fulfillment that comes with being in a position to give.  I was touched by the pride exhibited by both the child volunteers and the families that received a meal and handfuls of clothing.  That day, folks from different parts of the world at different stages of their lives came together to help a community and receive some emotional nourishment in return.  Whether it’s microfinance offered by Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation, the Kiva partner for which I’m working in Bacolod, child welfare provided by Kalipay, or food and clothing delivered by the Recovered Treasures kids, all of these social services share a common trait:  Filipinos giving less fortunate Filipinos an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives.

The mountainous area from which the locals come to receive clothing, food, and school supplies.

Jamie Greenthal is a Kiva Fellow working with Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines.  As this is his last blog post as a Kiva Fellow, he’d like to thank all of the Filipinos who have treated him with warmth and grace throughout his time in the country. 

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