The Kiva training took place over five days at their headquarters in San Francisco. All fellows-in-training were required to attend, some coming from as far as Europe and the Middle East. Luckily I only had to drive up from LA. It was an intense five days of learning everything from the loan repayment process to video shooting basics to legal matters, with social activities most evenings. I got to know my fellow “fellows” for a week before we all scattered across the globe for our assignments. Below is an overview of the first three days. Welcome to Kiva!
August 26- Day One
It’ 9:30pm and I am SO ready for bed. What a day. It was overwhelming and fantastic. Premel Shah, Kiva’s president, spoke this morning and it was quite inspirational. His passion is infectious and I thought, “Yes, this is where I’m supposed to be!” Training is held at the Kiva headquarters in San Francisco, and the atmosphere is what you might expect: lofty, communal work spaces with people who seem… wait for it… happy. The place reeked of entrepreneurialism.
There are nearly 30 fellows in training, and I met many of them today. One woman named Michelle is also going to India, although she’ll be in different cities visiting MFIs (microfinance institutions) that have had fellows previously. My two MFIs are brand new and I’ll be helping to onboard them both- not a totally unique situation, but not typical either. Since I have no frame of reference, it doesn’t make a difference to me! My brain is totally fried, but I feel inspired and look forward to what tomorrow will bring.
August 27- Day Two
I’m already starting to experience what I’ve heard about India- that things don’t operate the way you expect. During lunch my field support specialist (FSS) asked to speak with me. He said the partner I was supposed to work with in Varanasi likely wouldn’t be ready for me. He apologized, and offered a few different scenarios including staying in Kolkata longer and/or going to a different partner in India. I told him I was flexible and would go wherever made sense, which he was happy to hear. If I’m not able to go with the flow before I leave, I’m probably not well-suited to India! Other than that, brain is full from accounting and loan repayment sessions. I am SO not a finance person. Seriously, how did I end up here?
August 28- Day Three
No finance or accounting today- woohoo! A few things I love so far…
1. The transparency of the organization- they care about what lenders think and want to be as upfront about their partners as possible.
2. How innovative they are- constantly navigating how to improve things, change things, start new things.
3. Feeling re-invigorated- for the first time in awhile, I’m excited. I’m learning new things and feel like I’m part of something important. Fellows play a bigger role in the Kiva model than I knew, and I’m grateful to be part of it.
4. Being surrounded by smart, kind, enthusiastic people!