Posts tagged ‘kiva’

Kiva visit to Fuzuli

Last week I visited Fuzuli to meet two borrowers of my credit union for ‘borrower verification’.

See my post & video here.

July 14, 2010 at 6:28 am Leave a comment

Update 3

Read my third update to the Kiva fellows blog here about the history of Komak, the credit union where I work, as told to me by the director Aydin.

June 11, 2010 at 3:28 am 1 comment

Oily tea in Baku

The Kiva regional coordinator for Central Asia / Eastern Europe is visiting Azerbaijan. She doesn’t speak Russian so during her interaction (or interrogation) with the staff of my MFI I got to act as translator. Translating is like having a lively conversation without having to think for yourself, all that’s needed is concentration and articulation. Usually, I zone out several times during a conversation, but being the messenger of the conversation made me a lot more attentive. And it was relaxing and fun. My Russian, to my surprise, was not as weak as I expected. Besides several dozen business terms like наблюдательный совет (board of directors) for which I used ‘google translate’ I was able to translate efficiently and correctly (okay, maybe sometimes a little crudely).

I didn’t drink my tea this morning and left it to wait for me, covered, on the kitchen table. By the time I returned home 5 hours later, it looked like this. I was told that my neighborhood is one of the only ones with safe drinking water, but even boiled water here is unappetizing.

Young Azeris (or maybe just Azeri girls) are obsessed with Eurovision, an annual song contest with origins in the 1950s. It seems that most of Europe goes into a frenzy during each Eurovision competition, yet I’d never heard of it until last week. The judges are the audience who vote through text messages that cost about 60 cents to send. In this year’s contest, Azerbaijan won 5th place. Germany’s 19 year old Lena won 1st. My favorite contestant, Peter Nalitch, won 11th.

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May 31, 2010 at 7:12 am 1 comment

Become a lender on Kiva today!

Hello dear readers of my blog.

Loans posted by my MFI last month are about to expire because they have not been fully funded. This means, that although these borrowers have received the loan they requested already, it won’t be supported by Kiva, meaning that fewer future borrowers from my MFI will be able to borrow!

Generally, countries in Africa and Southeast Asia receive funding much quicker than countries in Central Asia and eastern Europe because of preconceived notions about what poverty is. True, none of the 4 borrowers I met today were starving. On the contrary they greeted us warmly, fed us tea and pastries. But it’s important to understand, that without credit, these individuals cannot improve their business and grow. Their opportunities are limited. In a post-communist developing economy like Azerbaijan’s, self sufficiency is important. By helping these folks expand their businesses, we the lenders create opportunities for their communities & children! By supporting a farmer who wants to buy more seeds or fertilizer we are helping his neighbors buy local and inexpensive food! By supporting a hair stylist we are helping the network of local women and their self esteem! As a business becomes more financially successful, the children of borrowers can pursue their own interests – university, music lessons, sports instead of being limited by poverty.

Click *here* to make a loan. Contribute to the loans that you think have the most probability of being fully funded, because a loan must be fully funded to receive Kiva funds!

Çox sağ olun!
(thank you)

May 27, 2010 at 7:53 am 2 comments

Visiting my homeland and arriving in Baku

I arrived in Baku nearly 30 hours after leaving New York.

As usual I was late to the airport. On the way I worried that I’d miss whatever time was set for last check-in. But when I arrived I found that there were at least 50 other passengers as late as I was (due to traffic) and that the plane was running 6 hours late! Seven annoying hours and a $12 food voucher later, I sat on the plane in the middle aisle between a middle aged anti-Semitic Russian woman and an orthodox Jew. Because Airosvit has flights to Tel Aviv, the plane was as full of people going to Israel as it was of people traveling to the ex-Soviet countries.

I didn’t sleep on this 9 hour flight to Kiev, because I cannot sleep in a sitting position. It was inevitable that I missed my connection to Baku from Kiev, since the plane was so late. After a very long wait on the passport control line in Kiev, my passport was received its official welcome to Ukraine stamp. I parted with Galya and her dad (unrelated relatives who were traveling on the plane by chance) and proceeded to find out how I could leave the airport and visit central Kiev for a few hours. After a half an hour wait at the Aerosvit customer service kiosk where I was given some semblance of a new ticket (for Baku) I stepped out of the airport and onto the sun drenched pavement of the capital of my “homeland.” It was 7:15pm.

Khreshchatik, Kiev's main st.

A 45 minute bus ride on the bus “Pilot” that cost 25 hryvnia (approx $3) I stepped out to the central train station, hub for trains to all parts of Ukraine and destinations in Russia. With assistance from a few people I found the metro and took it 3 stops to Khreshchatik, the main boulevard. Here I saw many youths, fancy clothes shops and a food bazaar.

Kiev: escalator down to metro

inside a metro... it looks old but it runs smoother than NYC subways

Back at the airport I found my way to the check-in for Baku. Seeing as I had no luggage, several people approached me to ask if I would be willing to claim some of theirs as mine since they had so much. I apologized and said no, being as I did had luggage somewhere (although I had lost my ticket and wasn’t completely sure anymore if I’d ever see it again). When my turn came the employee refused to give me my ticket because the semblance of a ticket I was given hours earlier was not what she wanted. “But I don’t have the original” I said, “I exchanged it for this…” She wanted me to go get the original, but the woman who I had given it to had been replaced by another woman at the customer service kiosk. After a few uncertain minutes and a phone call, the employee handed me my ticket.

Aerosvit from Kiev to Baku

The plane was a small one, but comfortable. I had a window seat. I got 2 hours of sleep. In Baku I took a taxi and met Peter, another fellow serving in another MFI in Azerbaijan. I’ll be staying with him for a few days until I find my own place. Peter’s apartment lacks an address. So today one of my most pressing concerns was figuring out how I’d located it again. Otherwise, it’s located quite a distance from the city center, something like Queens in comparison to NY. The apartment itself is very old and simple. It contains a ‘fortachka’ (little window on top) and no window screens. It has separate rooms for the toilet and shower/sink and when you turn on the kitchen sink the water leaks on the floor and across the kitchen.

Soviet style building in Baku's 9th district

I visited my MFI yesterday with Peter, and again today Peter was very kind to take me all the way here so I don’t get lost. Yesterday Peter and I took a tour with my MFI’s Kiva coordinator through central and old Baku…

Kiva coordinator & Kiva fellows

a view of central Baku and Caspian sea from the Maiden tower

So here I am….. 3,760 km from NYC!

May 19, 2010 at 6:45 am 5 comments

What is Kiva?

This May I’ll be going to Azerbaijan for 3 months to serve as a Kiva fellow at Komak, an Azeri credit union. Kiva means “unity” or “agreement” in Swahili and is an online microfinance platform that connects lenders with borrowers in 52 countries throughout the world. Since its inception in 2005, Kiva’s members have loaned over 132 million dollars to over 337,000 entrepreneurs (visit Kiva’s fact page for more interesting statistics).

So what is microfinance?

Microfinance is the provision of financial services to low income clients who traditionally lack access to banking and credit services.

Since the costs of administering loans are similar regardless of loan amount, banks tend to prefer customers who borrow higher amounts. For example, a loan from 1 customer who borrows $100,000 from a bank is less expensive to process than 100 loans for $1000 each, even if the interest revenue is the same.

Further, banks are generally located in urban areas, whereas microfinance institutions (MFIs) try to make their services accessible to the rural population. Additionally, poor people may have few assets that can be secured by a bank as collateral, while an MFI may be willing to lend solely on the word of a neighbor or to a group of borrowers who vouch for each other.

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April 29, 2010 at 3:29 am 1 comment

Kiva: Motivation statement

I am applying to Kiva as a fellow, hoping to intern at a micro-lending institution somewhere in the world. Here is my motivational statement:

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March 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm 2 comments


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