Retracing my First Steps with Kiva.org

Sometimes it takes a long way to get where you intended on going. Today, I arrived to work in the San Pedro de Macoris office. It’s about an hour from Santo Domingo, but the journey took a lot longer for me to get here. San Pedro is where Microfinance began for this organization. It was the first office of Esperanza and it’s still the biggest. The city is baseball crazy (like most in the DR) and for that, I wore my green polo to pretend like I fit into the fan base. (Still, no one has picked up this “coincidence” nor commented on my cultural assimilation skills.)

As I made my rounds getting to know the office, I sat down next to Norberto, the person in charge of the Kiva program for Esperanza. He’s been with Esperanza for quite some time and that’s probably why they let him run such an important program. Kiva.org is a web site that collects donations for microfinance programs world-wide. They have raised over $100+ million for 300,000+ entrepreneurs in 50+ countries and they’ve helped to fund a significant portion for Esperanza to lend out to their clients.

Kiva.org is where I found out about Microfinance. It was actually from a blog post from Seth Godin back in 2006, and from that link I signed up to make my first loan with Kiva. That loan went to Elodia Ruiz Gonzalez in Monterrey, Mexico. My initial four loans have since been recycled 10 times as the amounts have been paid back so my loan count is up to about 40. It’s amazing to see the investment of time in a project.

Elodia Ruiz Gonzalez in Monterrey, MexicoSo as I sit here in the first office of Esperanza, and Norberto and I are talking about how the Kiva.org program works, I can’t help but think that this moment, strangely, has been almost 5 years in the making. It was one of things that when I first heard about Kiva.org I thought to myself, “Wow, it’d be cool to travel to see what this is really like.”

Of course, I don’t think I could have predicted my journey of the past five years in Richmond, the 10 months away from an actual stable and routine living environment, nor the travel through five different Spanish speaking countries, countless flights, plenty of strange nights in hostels, buses, taxis, motorcycles, boats, walking miles on foot, not to mention the paperwork and logistics it took to be a volunteer to work here.

Sometimes people ask, “If you really knew what it took to get there, would you still want to start out on the journey?”

Maybe it’s a good thing that we don’t know that full journey, or all the steps it takes to get there, because we might not actually make the first step.

When it comes down to it, sometimes to get to where you intended on going, you can just catch a bus in Parque Enriquillo, ride for an hour, and when the bus stops, walk two blocks to the office.

(Join the Kiva.org DR and Haiti Lending Team!)

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