My Kiva Fellowship in Cambodia!

If this is your first time here, you have 4 questions:
  1. What's Kiva?
  2. What's a Kiva Fellow?
  3. Where is Cambodia and why are you going?
  4. When are you going? -- Early February until June

1. What's Kiva?

Kiva is a website that lets you lend to specific individuals in developing countries.

Note the two key words: "lend" and "specific."

First, Kiva is not a charity site; Kiva uses microloans, lending small amounts of money to poor entrepreneurs, to help people raise themselves out of poverty by lending them money so they can improve their businesses. The key is that the poor have become "borrowers" and not "aid recipients." Aid creates dependence; loans create a "self empowerment" mindset. Then, once a loan has been repaid, the lender gets the money back, and will hopefully reuse it to help even more people!

Second, through the "magic of the internet," Kiva has pioneered a method to allow lenders in developed countries choose the exact person they'd like to make a loan to. Lenders can choose based on whatever criteria they want: location, business type, gender, ethnicity, age, or even just because they like the way the borrower looks. A lender decides who and how much, then watches the story unfold.

(If you're worried about the risk of default, loan recipients have borrowed and returned over $18 million through Kiva with a default rate of only 2.9%, comparable to default rates in developed countries!)

2. What's a Kiva Fellow?

A Kiva Fellow is a volunteer who goes to one of the countries where Kiva operates and helps connect the local MicroFinance Institution (MFI) more stongly to Kiva. Fellows pay their own way to go to a developing country to volunteer for about 4 months. Specifically, duties involve talking to borrowers, blogging/photographing, and working directly with the MFI to make sure that things are going smoothly.

Why would I want to go to a hot, unfamiliar, and slightly dangerous country if I have to pay for all of my expenses? Basically, I'm really committed to learning about poverty first hand; I'm convinced that my life's goal is to help people be a little bit happier, and I think that working to lessen poverty is a great way to do that. By going into the field through this prestigious program, I'll get access to the people I'm trying to serve, and figure out how I can use my skills to help. This is just the beginning...

3. Where is Cambodia and why are you going?

Cambodia is a developing nation in Southeast Asia, bordered by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Unfortunately, its greatest claim to fame is the terrible reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. It's also famous for the ruins at Angkor Wat, an extravagant temple complex in the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire, Angkor. The people are almost entirely Buddhist (Theravada, 95%), and a large percentage are subsistence farmers. As a nation, Cambodia still has difficulty maintaining self sufficiency in rice, its staple grain.

Why Cambodia?
  • I went to Thailand (which is supposedly very different!) and enjoyed the attitudes of the local people. I've heard good things about Cambodian people as well, and I'd love to see what the people of this Buddhist country are like.
  • It was one of three choices, and I liked it the best (the other two were Samoa and Azerbaijan)
  • It's a country in a troubled economic situation, and I want to see what microfinance has done for it
  • I love eating durian and coconut and lychee and rabmutan and mango and jackfruit and mangosteen...

So, that about sums it up.

I need money...

As you may have noticed, I was not so subtle in mentioning that "I have to pay my own way" twice in the text above. The overall cost looks to be about $5-6000. Here's the basic breakdown (click here to see the breakdown, which I continue to update as I pay for things)
  • Plane ticket -- $1500
  • Vaccinations/anti-maliarials -- $400
  • Visa -- $175
  • Training costs -- $300
  • Personal Items -- $50-100
  • Research Materials -- $50
Then, once I've arrived:
  • Accommodations -- $1200
  • Food -- $600
  • Communication -- $400 (internet, etc)
  • Personal travel/expenses -- $400 (I'll cover this myself!)
  • Emergency Funds -- $1000 (for medical emergencies, etc. I won't use this, so not an expense)
Totals to about $4800

So, if you're willing to help me out, click here to donate ANY amount! (all you need is a credit card!)
New! - read my fundraising letter

In exchange for your donation, I'll keep you updated about everything I do using my blog. Please subscribe to it via RSS; I'll update as often as I have a reliable internet connection. I think this is a really great chance for everyone to get involved, and I promise a good return on your investment (in the form of blog posts)


Some disclaimers:
  • Any money I raise above my actual expenses will be donated to Kiva
  • Donations are not tax-deductable
  • I will be able to go even without donations, because I've got a little over $5700 in the bank at the moment. However, it'd be really nice to save a little...

Take action!
Here's where it gets exciting. I want you all to participate in my adventure, so here are some things you can do:

Join Kiva (actually, please email me for an invite first!)

Subscribe to my personal Kiva blog -- I'll update you all as often as I can! (Click to read)

Donate/Loan to me -- Click to help me pay for my trip! Any amount helps!

(you can also send me a check to 13055 Hesby St, Sherman Oaks, CA, 91423, or I'll come and get the cash from you in person!)

Read the Kiva fellows blog (I'll start posting in February!)
  • This blog is a collaborative blog where all the fellows post.
  • To subscribe, open your RSS reader, click "add new subscription," and then paste into the box.
  • Here's a nice story about charity vs. microfinance
Loan on Kiva -- Log in and start loaning! Here's my lender page

Join the
Kiva facebook group