Fellows Blog Posts by awhiteman

Aug 20, 2009 BJ Benin

By Andrew Whiteman, KF8

             My fellowship in Benin is nearly over.  It has been ten weeks of hard work, but I have learned a ton and I have great stories to take back to the US.  Some everlasting memories  include taking a baboon for a walk (yes, on a leash), being told that I could only wear a speedo at the swimming pool, and visiting a sacred forest, the home of a tree that was once a king.  More importantly, now I better understand my reason for being here.  During my first few weeks, when everything was stressful and confusing, I remember writing in my journal, “Why I...

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Aug 12, 2009 BJ Benin

By Andrew Whiteman, KF8 in Benin

A view over Dantokpa Market, where many Alidé borrowers sell their goods


One day, I walked into one of Alidé’s offices in Cotonou to work with the loan officers.  Right inside the gate, in the outdoor waiting area, I saw about thirty women seated patiently in perfect rows.  Everyone was wearing their best pagnes, brilliantly colored Beninese fabrics, so I could tell that it was an important day. 

After working...

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Jul 31, 2009 BJ Benin


Like most of Africa, Benin’s education system is riddled with problems. Its educational woes start at the primary level. The main language of instruction in Benin is French.  Educational resources written in Beninese languages hardly exist. Therefore, children whose native language is Fon or Yoruba have to learn material while trying to understand a new language. This problem is particularly evident in the rural north of Benin.  As a friend of mine said to me, it would help if more students started school in their native language and gradually transitioned to French....

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Jul 10, 2009 BJ Benin

View of Cotonou Benin

Over the past two weeks, I’ve spent a fair amount of time at Alidé’s field offices.  These offices are where the heavy lifting of Alidé’s work gets done.  I often walk into an office to find fifty women waiting to be interviewed for a loan.  Each office has about two or three loan officers, so, as you can imagine, these interviews are very time consuming.  Interviews can easily last all day.  Nonetheless, the loan officers patiently sit down with each...

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Jun 22, 2009 BJ Benin

Bonjour from Benin,

            I am approaching the two-week mark of my fellowship in Benin and things are off to a good start!  I am working for Alidé, an MFI based in Cotonou, the largest city in Benin.  Alidé is a relatively new partner of Kiva and is showing great promise.  The Kiva Coordinator at Alidé, my main colleague, is committed to strengthening the partnership and teaching the other staff members how to use Kiva.  I have a good feeling that we will work well together.

            During these first few weeks, I have definitely noticed the language barrier.  I...

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