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Inside Kiva: Jeff Nelson and "looking out for the little guy"

Jeff Nelson started his journey with Kiva as a Fellow and now works full-time as a staff accountant at our Portland office. He's passionate about holistic community development in marginalized urban contexts, as you can read below!

Growing up in the Minnesota suburbs, my parents always encouraged me to look out for the "little guy." In college, I recognized that the "little guy" made up the majority of the world and likely lived outside the US. After graduating, I spent two years in some rough Central American neighborhoods serving with a local charity. That charity had palpable love for the neighborhoods, but their solutions were short-sighted. It lacked the strategy to match their compassion. I was convinced that there must be a more sustainable approach to development.

Jeff had an incredible experience helping Kiva borrowers while serving as a Fellow in Latin America.

Kiva is uniquely positioned as a non-profit, tech-company. Imagine if Mother Teresa and Bill Gates had a child, Kiva would be its name. At Kiva, we believe that people actually matter and that we can improve the financial systems affecting marginalized populations. Kiva is both rooted in mission and at the cutting edge of strategy. It's a rush for me to work at Kiva.

In 2013, I spent a year as a Kiva Fellow monitoring 10 different field partners (microfinance institutions) in Latin America. From that point, I was hooked! When done right, microfinance is an extremely powerful tool in sustainable community development. I have seen first-hand that microfinance is the capital spark that empowers entrepreneurs to pursue their own solutions. I can also attest to the fact that microfinance is no silver-bullet panacea. In fact, Kiva continues to push the boundaries of financial inclusion strategy beyond microfinance with appropriate technology. It's a people-centric technology at its best.

Today, I serve on the finance team at Kiva crunching numbers behind the scenes. There are days when it can be easy to get lost in the spreadsheets and lose sight of the mission. A colleague once reminded me to, “never forget that poverty is not a percentage, but people who are poor.”

When looking for motivation, I draw heavily from my experience in the field where I met with 250+ microfinance borrowers. I am humbled to remember that I serve bakers that wake before dawn, farmers who till their fields by hand, weavers who spend days on a single piece of fabric, refugees who are making a new home... all while cooking and caring for their families. Their grit keeps me going and keeps me grounded.

It is truly an honor to work at Kiva.

Want to hear more about Jeff's experiences? Read more from Jeff about weaving and justice in Guatemala here and a Guatemalan Kiva kitchen exchange here (with recipes included!).

Watch a video by Jeff about a day in the life of a Kiva Fellow here!

100% of money lent on Kiva goes to the field, so we rely on donations to continue this important work. Donate to Kiva here, to help us support employees like Jeff!

About the author

Jeff Nelson