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Perspectives in the Field

By Julie Shea, KF12

I would like to preface this blog post by apologizing for writing about myself. It is my opinion that the Kiva Fellows Blog is not about the fellows – rather it is a place for us (the fellows) to let you (the lenders) know what is actually going on in the field; to discuss the realities facing the borrowers, the Microfinance Institutions (MFI’s) and the countries in which we are living. But after a mere week and a half in the field, I’m afraid it’s too early to relay any profound insights about the world of microfinance in Peru. So just this once, I’m going to talk about myself instead – more specifically to explain the perspective through which my later (more profound, obviously) posts will come.

I arrived in Ayacucho, Peru early Saturday morning with two full days before I would officially start my Kiva Fellowship. Two full days alone!? After spending the month of July constantly surrounded by friends and family, two full days all to myself in a new city certainly seemed like a lot. So much time to think! So much time to wonder about what I had actually gotten myself into!

My first international travel adventure began exactly six years ago, when the teenaged version of myself traveled to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to stay with a family, learn Spanish, and volunteer. One question I kept coming back to during those first two day – what is different now from six years ago?

I like to think a lot of things have changed (my choice of footwear not included). Probably the most important difference between then and now is the fact that I have taken a Bachelors Degree and half of a Master’s Degree in Business and International Development. What does that actually mean? I suppose I know more about the problems facing developing countries and can discuss them from an academic viewpoint. I can tell you what a number of different scholars have said about microfinance – why it’s hailed, why it’s criticized. I think this background and understanding will help me as I explore the unfamiliar terrain of my fellowship, but I also recognize that I need to be cautious of believing everything I’ve learned in school, so to speak. I fully expect to see/hear/experience things that aren’t in line with what I think I know – and that’s why I’m so excited to be here!

Echoing the wisdom of another fellow’s blog post, this experience is not about my story. However, I do feel that it is important for us all to take a moment to reflect upon where we are coming from and how it impacts the way we see things. So now that I have a handle on the eyes through which I’m seeing the Peruvian world of microfinance, I promise that my future blog posts will focus on exactly that.

Interested in becoming a Kiva Fellow? Read more about the Fellows Program.

Julie Shea is a Kiva Fellow working with Manuela Ramos and FINCA Peru. She looks forward to experiencing the realities of microfinance on the ground, after having followed the discourse within the field from afar.

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