One of the many things I’ve learned as a Kiva volunteer is that refugee camps aren’t just for short-term temporary lodging. People live their whole lives in refugee camps, go to school, run businesses, get married, have babies. There are an estimated 26 million refugees around the world, and half of them are children.
I edited a Kiva loan today for a man in Kenya named Mugaza. He’s of Somali descent and has lived in at least two Kenyan refugee camps. He is now living with his family in Kakuma camp, operating a grocery store and employing eight people.
UNHCR says the population of Kakuma camp is just over 188,000, meaning there are more people in that one camp than all of PEI. They have schools, medical facilities, and around 2,500 businesses. There are even football teams playing in regional leagues.
I can’t stop thinking about Mugaza, so I went back and made a loan to him. If you want to learn more about Kiva and how to make your first loan, here’s an invite from me.
Today is Kiva’s 15th Anniversary! Kiva is a microfinance platform that allows people to make small loans to borrowers around the world. I’ve been a Kiva lender since 2007 and a volunteer editor with their 400-strong Review and Translation Program since March 2009.
As of today, I’ve edited 11,787 loans that have enabled 11,206,606 USD in lending activity on the Kiva website. The nifty Kiva editing platform, Viva, also tells me those loans added up to 1,585,796 words. I check each loan over at least twice, so it’s no wonder I now wear reading glasses!
It’s interesting to look back at how my yearly editing totals grew over the years, with the exception of 2015, the year I was diagnosed with hemochromatosis and obviously slept when I should have been editing! This year’s total is certainly a reflection of the global impact of COVID-19, with very few loans being posted for a while as the pandemic raced around the world.
What have I learned after reading about nearly 12,000 people, most of whom live in places I’ve never been and will probably never visit? More than I can ever relay, I’m sure, but here are a couple of examples:
a convenience store is called a sari-sari in the Philippines (so when one opened in my area, I knew exactly what it was!)
tuk-tuks, boda-bodas, habal-habals, and just plain motorcycles seem to move billions of people every day
I was asked to tell my personal Kiva story earlier this week at a Zoom meeting of Kiva staff and volunteers. The rest of the world seems to have spent the entire COVID-19 pandemic on Zoom, but I’ve not been able to join in due to our janky home internet. A kind friend with slightly better internet connection allowed me to set up shop at her house and everything went well! I had hoped to impart some profound wisdom gleaned from a decade of being a Kiva volunteer, but it all ended up being quite simple :
The biggest lesson that is constantly being reinforced for me through my Kiva volunteering is that we all want the same basic things, no matter where we are in the world. Everyone who is caring for children wants them to have a good education, they want clean water and better living conditions, an opportunity to start a new business or improve the one they have. It’s certainly like that here on PEI, and while I imagined it was the same everywhere, I get to see the proof of this in every loan I edit.
PEI is in the Atlantic time zone, 4 hours behind the UK, 4 hours ahead of San Francisco. So, when I’m heading to bed on a dark, snowy Canadian winter night, I sometimes think of the people I’ve met through their loan descriptions, who are 12 hours or more ahead of me in Asia or Africa, starting their morning by opening their store, or preparing food for their restaurant, or walking to the fields, getting their children ready for school, launching their beautiful boats to go fishing. I cheer them on from afar, these new global neighbours, and for me, that’s what this editing journey has been all about.
I’ve been volunteering for something or other almost my whole life, but my experience as a Kiva volunteer has been the most enjoyable and enriching of anything I have ever done as a volunteer. It remains fun and interesting, and that’s why I’m still doing it (and the fact that I can do it any time, even in my pajamas, is pretty great, too!).
Through Kiva, I get to see the best of the human spirit, and help to make the world a bit better for others. On days when the world seems especially upside down, which seems to be quite often lately, Kiva gives me hope. I’m not sure who I would be now without Kiva.
I happened to notice yesterday I had made a total of 499 loans, so I’m off to make one more in celebration of this milestone and round things off nicely. If you want to join me and nearly two million other lenders, you’ll find more information here.