By Patricia Wada
This probably marks me as a newbie, but my interest in microfinance began when I read Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus. I was working at the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo, Japan, and was interested in how microfinance could be a piece of the international development puzzle. Fast forward a few years and you find me now, a microfinance enthusiast at the tail end of an eight-month internship at Kiva.
Kiva is a website that lets you make micro-loans of as little as $25 to low-income borrowers around the world. A quick browse through the Kiva lending page offers a glimpse into the lives of these borrowers.
In Peru, Edgar is borrowing to buy seeds for his agriculture business. In Senegal, Tacko is borrowing for her mobile phone business. And right here in the United States, Ana is borrowing to improve her childcare business. It is these individual stories that originally attracted me to Kiva, and they continue to fuel my enthusiasm for microfinance.
One of the sessions I’m most looking forward to is “The Rise of P2P Lending.” Peer-to-peer lending sites like Kiva have opened up a new funding channel for microfinance. At the same time, they provide something traditional funding sources don’t: an educational opportunity for individuals who lend on the site.
I’m also excited to hear from individual micro-loan borrowers. I’ve spent a lot of time working with over 400 volunteers who edit and translate their profiles for Kiva, so I can’t wait to meet some Kiva borrowers at the “Kiva Lender-Borrower Meet-Up.”
The “Opening Session: Conversation with Maria Shriver” is likely to be a highlight for me because of the chance to hear Maria Shriver speak, along with Kiva President Premal Shah. Thursday night’s “Taste of Microentrepreneurship” event will combine two things I’m passionate about microfinance and food, as microentrepreneurs will be representing Bay Area kitchens in a “food festival”!
On the other end of the spectrum, the conference offers sessions on important big-picture questions. I’m particularly interested in “What is a Fair Price to Pay for Good Credit?” and “Is Savings Even More Important than Credit?” These have been hot topics in the Kiva office and in the microfinance world, and I’m looking forward to hearing the experts weigh in.
The conference promises a great mix of sessions for seasoned microfinance professionals and relative newbies alike. It’s not too late to register for individual sessions or for the whole conference. I hope to see you there!
Patricia Wada has just completed an eight-month internship in Kiva’s Review and Translation Team. She previously worked in the publications department of the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo, Japan. A believer in the importance of microfinance for poverty alleviation, Patricia is continually inspired by the stories of microfinance clients all over the world.