Fellows Blog Posts by julieshea

Feb 24, 2011 BO Bolivia

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post that drew on my experiences as a Kiva Fellow in Bolivia to discuss two points of criticism about microfinance, specifically from Aaron Ausland’s Huffington Post article, “How Microfinance Lost its Soul”. In this second installment, I will attempt to do the same, focusing on the portrayal of microfinance put forth by Tom Heinemann’s controversial documentary, The Micro Debt.

Supporters of microfinance seem to agree on two things about the film The Micro Debt:

(1) The discussion surrounding microfinance and its perceived and real impact,...

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Feb 7, 2011 BO Bolivia

A few months ago, I wrote a post discussing the advantages and drawbacks of financial institutions offering their clients healthcare services. Throughout the course of the past few months, my time spent working in ProMujer’s office has afforded me the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of clients’ healthcare needs and the services provided to them by ProMujer.  A recent conversation with Ruth Apaza, the supervisor of all nurses in the El Alto region, shed light on ProMujer’s healthcare services: why it’s an important part of their model, how they work with the women, and the...

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Jan 25, 2011 BO Bolivia

Kiva strives to connect microfinance borrowers and lenders from all corners of the globe – and one medium through which it is able to accomplish this is the Kiva Fellows blog. I would therefore like to dedicate this post to telling the story of Javier Aguilar Soto, the things I learned from meeting with him, and some broader lessons I gained, through the meeting, about the field of microfinance.

Presenting Javier

Javier lives in a rural area outside of the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia and is a client of the Microfinance Institution (MFI) CIDRE. He and his wife...

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Dec 18, 2010 BO Bolivia

As a Kiva Fellow and ardent believer in the poverty alleviating potential of microfinance, I make an effort to keep abreast the developments and discussions within the industry, both from the practical and academic side. While I find myself frustrated over negative articles or comments that oppose much what I am witnessing as a fellow on the ground, I must remind myself that this criticism can lead to constructive debates, and ultimately to advancements and improvements within the field.

The microfinance industry is certainly not without problems, as we have witnessed with recent...

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Dec 1, 2010 BO Bolivia

Upon starting my fellowship at ProMujer Bolivia in La Paz, I became quickly aware of the fact that this microfinance institution (MFI) offers its customers one thing that the other MFI’s I’ve worked with and observed don’t, namely healthcare services.  In a country where national health data show high infant and maternal mortality, and the lowest life expectancy in Latin America*, the value of these services offered by ProMujer is obvious. However, a part of me questions the notion that a person’s access to healthcare and health services should be so intricately linked to his or...

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Nov 13, 2010 BO Bolivia

For me, one of the most interesting and potentially controversial challenges for Kiva’s lending model revolves around the concept of posting photographs and stories about real people, their lives, and their financial activities – and the privacy issues this entails.  There are undoubtedly millions of microfinance clients that live in such remote areas that they don’t know what the internet is, or even if they do, lack knowledge and understanding about the speed and extent to which information can travel. How do we explain to these people how the Kiva model works and how their...

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Nov 2, 2010 PE Peru

By Julie Shea, KF12, Peru

As I finish up my three month fellowship with Kiva’s Peruvian field partner, Manuela Ramos/CrediMUJER, I would like to share a short video in which Executive Director Gloria Díaz discusses the organization’s work empowering the women of rural Peru, as well as the role Kiva lenders play in supporting that work.


If you feel inspired by what you’ve seen, join the Manuela Ramos lending team. You can also...

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Oct 27, 2010 PE Peru

By Julie Shea, KF12, Peru

Living abroad and dealing with cultural differences will inevitably, at some point, present challenges and frustrations. I think it’s the manner in which we address, deal with, and learn from these challenges that make time spent living in a foreign culture so valuable. One of the challenges I had to deal with during my time in Pucallpa (a city in Peru’s Amazon region) was the attention I got from men as a female foreigner.

It came as quite a shock to me, after having spent time in Lima (the capital) and Puno (in the Andes region), where...

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Sep 29, 2010 PE Peru

By Julie Shea, KF12, Peru

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between microfinance and economic development of Peru on a countrywide scale. I’m struck by the fact that the microloans procured by female entrepreneurs, while instrumental in allowing the women to better their situations for themselves and their families, seem to have little direct influence on the economic development of Peru as a whole. For example, I have met very few loan recipients whose business activities are creating jobs; the majority of women work by themselves (and for themselves) in the...

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Sep 13, 2010 PE Peru

By Julie Shea, KF12

Since arriving at Manuela Ramos’s Puno office on August 12th, I have attended ten Community Bank monthly meetings and interviewed approximately 70 clients. In theory, the routine is the same: I meet up with the Community Bank’s Loan Officer (sometimes as early as 6am because we have far to travel), and we head off to the meeting together, often traveling via ”combi” (small vans) to ”moto-taxi” (motorcycle taxis) to car to ”moto-taxi”…depending on how remote the location of the meeting is, always the trip involves multiple modes of transportation, often it...

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