Hello and welcome to my blog following the Kiva fellowship I recently embarked upon. Please feel free to subscribe if you want to receive notices that I have updated the blog. The link to subscribe in on the right side of this page.
Now to my first entry.
As I sat down to write my first post to this personal blog the other day, I realized I was writing the same thing I had written before several other big trips I have taken. Basically that I was nervous but excited, and that I wasn’t sure what to expect. While the feeling was the same the fact that it felt familiar made it more comfortable, sort of like an old friend. As I write this I am at a small restaurant in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan eating my lunch of steaming hot noodles and vegetables. While the abundance of fresh bread, homemade noodles, and tasty kimchi has kept me satisfied, it seems the dominant Russian food manual lost the chapter on spice. I find myself frequently unloading generous amounts of chili sousam (chili sauce) just to get some interaction with my food before I swallow it. I suppose I can’t complain as the large plate in front of me, including bread and tea, will run about $2, and those are city prices.
Besides the food I am settling well into my position with Mol Bulak Finance, the 4th largest microfinance bank in Kyrgyzstan. I have been pleasantly surprised by how much responsibility they have given me so far. The main thrust of my first several months looks like it will be to help them manage their social performance research. Social performance management is the new hot item in microfinance. Basically it looks to quantify the social benefits borrowers are receiving by taking microloans, receiving microinsurance, or initiating microsaving. My project will be to research industry best practices, determine which of these indicators can be efficiently and effectively measured within the specific context on Mol Bulak, and work on implementing the changes in data mining needed to satisfy the requirements of the approved indicators. I could not be more excited. I also have been charged with several PR projects (who knew I could do PR?!) focusing on creating a campaign to expand an educational initiative the bank has started and creating a template for quarterly reports to attract and inform investors. With the outpouring of support from my friends and family to support me going on this fellowship, it feels great to be utilized and effective in helping while I am here.
Well, my goal with these blogs is to keep them short and sweet, as opposed to the last few novellas on my travelblog. Also, I will probably use this space to write more goofy/funny/sad/happy stories about living in Bishkek and use the Kiva Fellows blog to write about fellowship work (I know, I know, all I talked about here was fellowship work. What can I say, I’m excited!). As I start to write blogs on the official Kiva Fellows blog I will put the links up here.
Also, while I alluded to it above, I want to make sure that I am loud and proud about thanking those that supported me in this endeavor. I raised over $8,000 and had my plane ticket donated! To each of you I hope you choose to follow my work here in Kyrgyzstan and that I am able to provide real returns on your investment…in me. I also will use this to remind anyone reading this that would like to donate to my fellowship fund, I can certainly use it. There is a PayPal donation button on the right side of this page. The more money I have the longer I will be able to keep doing this volunteer work.