Sponsored Kiva Fellow: Devon Fisher

Discussion in 'Kiva | Loans That Change Lives' started by Randy Petersen, Jan 29, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Randy Petersen
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    Randy Petersen Founder

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    Kiva Fellow | Devon Fisher
    This thread introduces our sponsorship of Devon Fisher as a Kiva Fellow. Devon most recently has been serving as a Kiva volunteer Community Engagement Intern and has been wonderfully supportive of the Milepoint Kiva Lending Team. When the team saw that a new class of Kiva Fellows was announced and Devon was among those selected, we immediately thought to help her along as an extension of our support of Kiva. A fundraising was held to assist her in covering her expenses during the four-month assignment in Africa and that goal was met. Milepoint also assisted by donating miles for a return ticket to Africa, with even some legroom added (love that E+).

    This thread will serve as Devon's communication with the Milepoint Kiva Lending Team. We welcome her updates, news of how loans are put to use and more. Here's a little bit about Devon
    Devon Fisher |
    Devon’s extensive experience studying abroad, along with her travels and volunteer service, have fueled her passion to pursue a career in international development. Inspired by the principle of empowering people across the globe, she dedicated herself to volunteer for Kiva as a means to provide opportunities for others. Prior to joining the Kiva team, Devon worked as the Communications Coordinator at Oikocredit, a microfinance organization in Washington DC. Devon is currently working towards her Masters in International Studies at the University of San Francisco with a thesis emphasis focused on microfinance. Growing up on the island of Kauai has instilled a deep appreciation for the environment and the outdoors, which is reflected by Devon's passion for preserving the environment and creating a greener life. When not studying or working in the Kiva office, you’ll catch Devon in one of her two happy refuges/havens: yoga class or live music shows.
    Devon.jpg
     
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  2. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Jambo from Kenya!

    Here is a travel update from my hotel in Nairobi. I will write a Training Week update once I arrive in Mombasa.

    I arrived in Nairobi last night at 11:30PM and was finally at my hotel and in bed around 1AM. I was traveling for about 35 hours and it was probably the longest 35 hours of my life. The trip began at 9:55AM on Saturday, when I left SFO for Chicago then on to Brussels followed by a flight to Burundi and then finally here in Nairobi!

    I was lucky to sit next to a gentleman named Alan, and learn more about East Africa. Alan is Tutsi from Burundi- a country that experienced a very similar genocide to Rwanda in the early 90's, and was practically ignored by the entire world. Alan's family had to abandon their home/farm for 7 years and live in a protected military camp. He said his family was very lucky to survive. He gave me some movies to watch which he said depicts the story much better than Hotel Rwanda. Despite his hardships, Alan is very optimistic about life. His survival story was unlike anything I have ever heard firsthand. I'm very eager to learn much more about Africa's unique history and feel very fortunate to be here to absorb as much as possible during the fellowship.

    Once I got to the hotel last night, I was luckily able to sleep through the entire night, so I'm hoping I am already ahead of the jet-lag battle (but I guess I'll know for sure later today).

    Here are a two pictures from my hotel, which is close to the airport and about a 10-15 minute drive to downtown Nairobi. The other photo was taken by my mother when she dropped me off at SFO on Saturday morning.

    I asked for a late checkout today so I could have some time to relax/ regroup and also to have some time to go to town and get a cell phone before I head back to the airport to fly to Mombasa (45 minute flight).

    More to come soon! :)

    Devon
     

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  3. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Hello Everyone,

    Before my first day of work at Milango tomorrow, I wanted to fill you all in a bit on the Kiva Fellows Program (KFP) training week we had the last week of January.

    The week was packed with presentations and breakout sessions from 8:30AM to around 5 or 6 PM, followed by a social event that allowed the fellows to get to know one another and also meet with Kiva staff and former fellows.

    While it was pretty exhausting absorbing so much information in that short amount of time, it was extremely inspiring to learn even more about the amazing organization we are working for. I was very impressed with how robust the training program is and how prepared I felt when the week came to a close and we had our "graduation ceremony" in front of a cheering audience of Kiva staff and volunteers.

    The week began with an introduction to 'How Kiva Works' by Kiva's founder, Matt Flannery, which included his story of visiting Uganda for the first time and having an idea that turned into the birth of this wonderful organization. If anyone is interested in learning more about his story, I recommend reading Matt's article "Kiva and the Birth of Person-to-Person Microfinance," that was published in 2007 by MIT Press.

    The first day continued as we dove into the details of the fellowship program with the history of the program and the work of our predecessors as well as the goals for our time working with Kiva's partners in the field. There have been 16 classes of fellows before us, 407 Kiva fellows, and 186,390 hours worked in the field (the KFP Team somehow managed to work this number out, please don't ask me to prove it!). :)

    Three main goals of the program were outlined: 1) Improve Kiva's Field Partners' compliance and competence with regards to Kiva's policies 2) Help the organization as a whole to operate with efficiency, innovation, and entrepreneurialism, and 3) Expand Kiva's visibility and reach to attract new lenders and engage existing ones.

    How are we supposed to achieve this? Well, we were all given a workplan that will (hopefully) leave our MFI in a better position with Kiva's partnership than when we first arrived. When I first received my workplan, I was overwhelmed with the objectives that made little sense to me, but over the week they slowly came together and I left Kiva HQ very confident about the deliverables I'll be working on at Milango. Throughout my time in Mombasa, I will fill you in on those deliverables and my progress on my workplan. I am particularly excited about the Borrower Verifications (BVs) that I get to do in the field. The BV is a process that Kiva uses to verify the accuracy of the information included in the borrower profiles and posted on the Kiva website. It consists of a random sample of 10 Kiva borrowers, so I will be able to visit these borrowers and learn more about their specific loan and their experience working with Milango and Kiva. I will also be working on a creative project surrounding Kiva's Social Performance Badges which is very exciting because Milango is one of the few partner MFIs that have 5 Social Performance Badges!

    In the coming weeks/months I will go into further detail on the different aspects of my work plan and the program in general that we went over during training. It is simply way too much information to include in this first post, so it will be fun to spread out and share with you all over the course of my time in Mombasa.

    I have included a handful of pictures of the training week which were taken by Kiva Fellows Program Coordinator, Eric Brandt at Kiva HQ. Hope you enjoy!

    Wish me luck with my first day tomorrow! :)

    All the best,
    Devon
     

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  4. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    I wanted to share a blog post written by Jacob Schultz, Kiva Fellows Program Manager, and Eric Brandt, Kiva Fellows Program Coordinator. It's a nice introduction and welcome to the KF17 class. :)

    Kiva Puts its 17th Class of Fellows on the Map!
     
  5. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Good Afternoon Everyone,

    Here is a little update from the field:

    I've begun my second week at Milango and things are falling into place nicely. Last week was a combination of two extremes. A couple of the days were really busy and productive as I spoke with several loan officers and scheduled all of my Borrower Verification (BV) visits, which I will have completed by March 22nd. I also had a few meetings with Milango's management team and I was able to inform them of each of the deliverables I must complete before I head back to San Francisco in June. They are extremely supportive and have connected me with the right people in the company to help me get my specific tasks started. There were a couple days last week, however, when I found myself a little frustrated with the speed at which things were moving. Then I reminded myself, it's only week 1 and I need to allow time to settle into the work culture here…

    I've been excited to introduce you all to Michael, the Kiva Coordinator at Milango. Michael just might be the most dedicated employee at Milango! He is so passionate about his job and the partnership with Kiva! He works at Milango's Malindi branch, which is about a 2 hour drive from the HQ where I am working, but he and I will be meeting about twice a week to either go on a BV visit or attend to other Kiva related work, such as Journaling or re-posting loans. I'm really lucky to be working with Michael because he is so responsive and eager to help. Plus, he is just a joy to be around.

    This past weekend I attended a training conference for Milango's staff. It was a great way to learn about every aspect of the company very early on in the fellowship, but I went home absolutely drained. The conference was held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 7:30am to around 6pm. While the conference was called a training, much of the time was also spent reviewing last years productivity and then setting goals for 2012 and beyond. Joseph, the founder and Managing Director of Milango is a visionary and inspirational speaker by nature. Day 1 of the conference began with a major presentation of his vision for the company, which is no small feat. He started Milango in 2009 with a staff of 5 employees working from restaurants and/or home and has since expanded to a staff of almost 60, all of whom are extremely motivated to contribute to the company's growth and success.

    I was asked to give a presentation on Kiva, which I did yesterday (I have included some photos below). I included three sections to my presentation: The Story of Kiva, How Kiva Works (which included a demonstration of lending to one of Milango's borrowers), and Social Performance. Like I mentioned in a previous post, Milango has received 5 out of the 7 Social Performance Badges on Kiva.org. The badges that Milango has received are: Anti-Poverty Focus, Vulnerable Group Focus, Family and Community Empowerment, Entrepreneurial Support, and Facilitation of Savings. Before I left San Francisco, JD (Senior Director of Social Performance) gave me a certificate to give to Milango once I arrived. I decided this presentation was the perfect opportunity, so I framed it and presented it to the Managing Director at the end of my presentation. It was a great closing. The staff were all thrilled about their achievement and recognition from Kiva. They also saw it as a major photo opportunity (see below). Today when I walked into work, the framed certificate was on display in the entryway of the office. :)

    This week I will finally get to meet some borrowers. Michael and I will accompany a loan officer on Wednesday to a group meeting, where she will collect and disperse loans to the borrowers. After the meeting I will conduct the BV with two of the group members. Im really looking forward to it!

    Hope you are all doing well. Enjoy Presidents Day for me!

    Cheers!
    Devon
     

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  6. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Also, if any of you would like to join the KF17 lending team, we made it an open group so that our friends and family can join in the lending fun. :)

    Here is the link: http://www.kiva.org/team/KivaFellows_KF17
     

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  7. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Thanks. I joined and loaned!
     
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  8. nime01
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    nime01 Gold Member

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    Thanks for the interesting update! Joined the KF17 team and loaned :)
     
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  9. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Hi Friends and Fellow Kiva Enthusiasts!

    It has been a wonderful week so far, and it’s only Wednesday! Work here at Milango has picked up tremendously and now I’m having to stay well into the evening to complete my work, but I love it and I feel much appreciated for being here. This week I had a visit from a few fellow Kivans, Cher, JD and David - which was so wonderful. Cher and David had meetings in the morning with Milango’s Management, so I was able to take JD out into the field with a loan officer and attend a group meeting and visit a borrower at her retail shop. This was the first group meeting I’ve gone to in Mombasa, and it was an unforgettable experience. Each group has to come up with a name, and the group we met on Monday was called, “Watu Wa Maono” (People of Vision). The group was a mix of men and women who joined together several months ago when their original two groups had fallen apart. The group consists of 13 people, all of which were present, which demonstrated their commitment to each other. I wish I could share some photos with you, but under Kiva policy I cannot share photos of Kiva clients unless for Kiva blogs, journals, etc. So please stay posted for those to come!

    Yesterday I went out into the field again with Paul, who is such a dedicated loan officer. It was wonderful to be introduced to over 25 clients, all of which he was very familiar with and was able to introduce me to and tell me a bit about their families and businesses. The average loan size was about KS 30,000 ($360), which most clients are to repay within 6 months. Many of the clients I met are posted on Kiva’s website and all well aware that Kiva is partner of Milango. They thanked me sincerely for the funding that Kiva has sent to Milango that has reached each of them and allowed them to expand their businesses. It was a very memorable experience.

    I’m looking forward to another Borrower Verification trip I have tomorrow morning, because I will be attending another group meeting!

    I have included some photos below: 1) the building of the group meetings yesterday 2) the inside of the building 3) the restaurant of one of the group members 4) the street where the Kiva client we visited has her retail shop 5) the group's treasurer collecting repayments. :)

    All the best!
    Devon
     

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  10. KyRoamer
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    KyRoamer Gold Member

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    Here's wishing you well on St. Paddy's day and every day.
     
  11. RCyyz
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    RCyyz Silver Member

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    Hey Devon - just a quick note to let you know that your updates (and pics!) are being read with great interest. Keep it up!

    Hope all is well over there!
     
  12. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Great question! Last week the Kiva Coordinator and I discovered a repayment reporting error, which was actually a pretty big deal. After many client visits, I would go to their client profile and I was surprised to find many profiles were labeled as delinquent. I knew they were definitely not delinquent since most of the clients I've met were either ahead of schedule or right on time... so we realized it was an error in the way the repayments had been reported at Milango... I won't go into all the details, but please note that the changes were made yesterday and the Repayment Report for February has been correctly posted. I hope this will self correct the high number of loans at risk. I will follow up with the Kiva Coordinator and make sure. Please let me know if you notice anything like this again! Thanks for bringing it up!
     
  13. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Thank you! I'm definitely due for another update, which I will get to this week for sure. I hope you are all doing well! I have been jamming away on a few projects here at Milango and today I feel like my head is spinning! But (most of) the work I am doing has been really fun and I'm surviving the challenges, largest of which is adjusting to "Africa Time."

    I will fill you in on the projects soon! I hope you enjoyed the "Life of a Kiva Fellow" video I made for the Kiva Do! I will make an edited one this week so that I can post it here! (The video I made for the conference contains music I don't have the license for, so it cannot be posted online...)

    Cheers!
    Devon
     
  14. Dreamworks

    Dreamworks Gold Member

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    Your hard work is truly appreciated. I wonder if any of the Kenyans have heard of the fantastic American group, Toto, and their hit single "Africa." I'm sure its very authentic. :)
     
  15. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Hi Milepointers!

    I hope this update finds you well! I apologize for the major delay. Life in Mombasa has been very busy!

    I am happy to announce that I have completed the Borrower Verifications (BVs) and that Milango is almost graduated to Active on Kiva. Yay! The BVs have been a remarkable way to learn more about Milango and get to know some of the loan officers outside of the office while we are out in the field. Every BV has been its own adventure and each day is totally unique. On Tuesday, I went on my final two BVs with Jacinta, one of Milango's "Star Loan Officers." I honestly don't know how to truly explain the dedication of this woman, as she is the hardest working loan officer I have met yet. She goes above and beyond the call of duty to reach the most vulnerable clients who would otherwise have no alternative option for receiving any financial assistance. The clients we visited on Tuesday live in Shimba Hills which is about a 3 hour drive from Mombasa Town (by car, which is how we got there together). Jacinta visits these clients twice a month and travels there by a matatu (until the road ends) and then by a "boda boda" ( back of a motorbike) on long bumpy dirt roads... This takes her well over three hours each way and she often doesn't get back home until 10 or 11pm or days she visits these clients.

    Tuesday was extremely eventful! When we reached the first Kiva client, Hamisi, we were greeted by the entire group of borrowers (all of which are on Kiva). It was not the day for their group meeting, but they were all very curious about the mzungu (white foreigner) from Kiva who was visiting their village, so they all came to greet me in "town" (which consists of one shop (Hamisi's small kiosk shop) and one small restaurant (which they call a 'hotel' here). They all joined us as Hamisi gave me a tour of the town, which took less than 10 minutes, and then we all gathered around his shop where he served us warm soda (no electricity in the village, so no refrigerator). By the time Jacinta and I were preparing to leave, there were about 30 children gathered outside of Hamisi's shop. They were all so curious about the mzungo! When I said 'hello' to them, about 4 of the youngest started to cry. I felt terrible! Jacinta explained to me this was the first time they had ever seen a person with white skin, and they couldn't figure out what I was. In fact, they even asked their parents if I was a real human being. They were both extremely curious and cautious of my every move.

    We continued to the second BV of the day, which was about a 30 minute drive away from Hamisi's. The group knew I was coming and had prepared the loveliest picnic for me. I honestly have never experienced such a warm welcome before! I was the guest of honor and was given a chair at the head of the table, which was donned with the most colorful African linens. The 13 borrowers in this lending group are all farmers (they grow passion fruits, coconuts, oranges and cashews). They served Jacinta and I fresh passionfruit juice and jam they had just made special for our visit. I was greeted with welcomes from all of the Kiva clients, their families, and the warmest greeting from the eldest man in their tribe, who is the father of the Kiva client I was visiting for the BV. It was by far the most remarkable day I have had since I've arrived in Kenya. Before I left, the group thanked me repeatedly for taking the time to meet them and expressed I was the first mzungu to ever visit their village.

    I'm a bit sad that the BV work is all done, because the personal connection with the Kiva clients is such a special privilege. Luckily, there is lots of film work to do for Kiva's Social Performance Team! This means my time in the field is far from over. Now that I have made these personal connections with these clients, I feel comfortable visiting again to collect footage.

    Please look out of the upcoming Mother's Day campaign from Kiva, which will likely contain some footage and/or photos of some Mombasa mamas! :)

    Cheers!
    Devon
     
  16. KyRoamer
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    KyRoamer Gold Member

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    Thanks for such a warm and informative report. I helps me feel connected to the special people that are Kiva borrowers and Fellows :) .
     
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  17. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    Wonderful Devon, simply wonderful!
     
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  18. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    Here are some photos from Tuesday's BV outing (previous post). There are no photos of either Hamisi or Jacob included because it's Kiva's policy to protect the identity of clients in the field. But at least you can get the idea of what the first village was like... Jacinta (the star loan officer) is the woman in the suit.

    Enjoy the weekend!
     

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  19. Dreamworks

    Dreamworks Gold Member

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    Devon,

    Thanks again for sharing. I realize that your reports for us are above and beyond all the other stuff you do and we all appreciate your time and efforts. I think the photos and the story is evidence of the lenders developing connections with the MFIs. After reading about Jacinta and your clients, I want to give directly to Milango. I'm hoping that when you come back there's time for you to share highlights and lowlights. Kind of like a development version of "After The Ring" for the Bachelor. Not that I have any idea what that show would be.
     
  20. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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  21. KyRoamer
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    KyRoamer Gold Member

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  22. KyRoamer
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    KyRoamer Gold Member

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    The Facebook link did not work. I am now following Milango on Twitter. Is http://milangokenya.co.ke/ Milango MFI's web site that you were talking about?
     
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  23. D.Fisher

    D.Fisher Silver Member

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    The current website is very old and outdated. The one I am working on is not launched yet- so you won't be able to see it until it's launched... I will let you know when.

    I'm not sure why the Facebook page didn't work for you. It's working on this end... hmmm if anyone has any ideas- please let me know. The Facebook link I have is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Milango-Financial-Services/128485847276079

    Thanks :)
     
  24. KyRoamer
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    KyRoamer Gold Member

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    Just takes me to my Facebook home page.
    Will the updated page use the same URL?
     
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  25. Stephen
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    Stephen Gold Member

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    I cannot access or see this one either, is it published public?

    I can see another one that it looks like an employee made to put their work status:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/milango-financial-services/117855704912181
     
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