Day in the Life of a Kiva Fellow: Borrower Verifications

There is a wide array of tasks a fellow can be assigned during one's time in the field. One task I have found most meaningful is "Borrower Verifications," more affectionately known as BVs at Kiva. Most fellows traded in corporate offices/cubes to serve with Kiva; seeing BV on your work plan is a guaranteed change in scenery (literally) from office cubical walls to the beauty of being in the field. 

I want to share “A day in the life” of my life as a Kiva Fellow with you during a BV in photos. As context, BV is a randomly generated list of 10 borrowers from a particular Kiva partner that a fellow meets with to verify information such as loan amount, use, repayment information, etc. 

BVs start with mapping out location of borrowers. Given that the list is generated randomly, this is a fun exercise in seeing which parts of your assigned country you get to explore! It then involves masterful coordination with field officers and borrowers to find a time that works for everyone.
Being out on the road is always an adventure. I thankfully had a car for most of my BVs, though some fellows have made visits only on motorbikes. The farthest BV visit took a full day, ~8 hours of driving, to arrive at the destination. We had to sleep there overnight to meet with borrower for 45 minutes the next day. These car rides have been great for getting to know staff members at my Kiva partners, working on those "rocking in the car" dance moves, and the source of very mixed feelings when the path takes us “off road” into full-on “African Massage” territory (i.e. REALLY uneven, bumpy roads).

No matter the road conditions, the view is always guaranteed to be beautiful.

Given that my BVs have taken me all over the country. Along the way, I get to try different regional foods and heed to recommendations of my coworkers. This is a hearty goat offal (internal organs of an animal) meal that my coworkers encouraged I try. Contrary to its phonetic sound, it was quite good.

Other times, the foods have tried to come to me. On several occasions, street vendors have tried to sell me a live chicken through the car window. Talk about "fresh" produce!

After all that adventure, the real work begins! A meeting with a borrower typically takes about 30-45 minutes. One is never sure what environment the meeting will take place in. Sometimes, it is literally outside in a field. People are eager to return to their businesses, they may be nervous about your presence, their babies may be fussy and disrupt the meeting, or a crowd of local kids may be quickly gathering nearby at the sight of a foreigner. A fellow has to be friendly but also firm to keep meetings on task amidst all the potential distractions

During the meeting, lots of photographing occurs of various important documents. For sake of borrower’s privacies, I will not post any photos here. 

Through BVs, I have had a chance to learn a bit about all types of industries. This borrower runs a sorghum bar. It is a type of grain that can be fermented into a beer popular with locals.

This is a brick making business. I got to experience the difficult task of moving just formed bricks one by one into this oven for heating.

A milk processing center. I learned that the government gave each family a cow to fight malnutrition. This milk processing center enables families to sell the excess milk to generate more income for their families and to help other communities that may not have access to fresh milk.

The best part of the visit is when I get to share the borrower’s Kiva profiles with them. Often, people are a mixture of excited and shy to see their own photos on paper. They are always happy to hear about their new Kiva lender friends from around the world.

I am lucky to get to represent a great company and experience live the joy of a world made smaller by the power of lending. It truly is a privilege. This group of lovely ladies showed their appreciation with a lovely traditional dance.

Thanks for joining me for a journey into the life of a Kiva Fellow! 

About the author

Ran Fan

Ran was born in China and grew up across three continents. Her immigrant background made her acutely aware that her family’s access to more opportunities is a privilege. She has served as an AmeriCorps Scholar and achieved the President’s Gold Award of Volunteering. Academically, she is a proud Wolverine with a business degree from the University of Michigan. Professionally, Ran spent four years at American Express, working in the internal consulting group advising the CEO/senior executives on corporate strategy projects, followed by business planning for a multi-billion portfolio of global merchant accounts. Now she is ready to return to her roots of serving the community. She was inspired to become a Kiva Fellow after meeting many hardworking entrepreneurs during her travels. She has witnessed firsthand that “talent is distributed equally across the human race, but opportunities are not.” Ran is excited to be a part of a ripple effect of change, starting in Nairobi, Kenya. Post fellowship, Ran hopes to pursue social enterprise opportunities focused on the underbanked.