Why I’m applying to Kiva

14 Sep


My reasons for wanting to become a Kiva Fellow are relatively straightforward, and I imagine not all that different from most other applicants.  Namely I believe that microfinance, when implemented correctly, can be an invaluable tool for low-income individuals, and I feel strongly that it should be made as widely available as possible. I want to become a Kiva Fellow both to contribute as much as possible in the short term (my placements) as well as to gain experience in order to help effect a greater change in the long term (my career).  While these sentiments might be commonplace, the road I took to develop them– both educationally and personally – is uniquely my own.

As an Economics major at Columbia University, I’d long been interested in financial tools and the inner-workings of economies, but it wasn’t until I decided as an upperclassman to take classes in Economic Development, Globalization, and the like that my interest in the coursework truly transcended the theoretical and found focus. 3rd World poverty quickly lost its aura of immutability as I became more and more convinced that major change could be effected if only the correct policies and programs were in place. A Spring Break trip to Guatemala with my older brother at my side (David Connelly, KF ’10) and Muhammad Yunus in my backpack only solidified these feelings and my growing desire to act upon them. Returning home I began to take greater notice of the immense role of personal banking services in our daily lives, including watching my parents leverage a bank loan in order to launch a small sanitation company. I’ve seen firsthand the massive positive impact this has had on their lives. That low-income individuals, if provided the resources, could similarly capitalize on economic opportunities in their lives seems inescapably self-evident to me.

My experiences since graduating have only increased my desire to work in microfinance, while simultaneously equipping me with the necessary tools to thrive as a Kiva Fellow. From my time working for a startup in China I gained firsthand experience working with great autonomy and responsibility in a wholly unfamiliar cultural environment. In Colombia I polished my Spanish, volunteered extensively with low-income citizens, and immersed myself even further in Latin American society.  Perhaps more importantly, living in developing countries for two years and fully engaging with the people and culture around me has imparted a passionate desire to apply myself to some greater good. But while there is much to be said for idealism, it is nothing without pragmatism. Kiva is not a charity, and it is not founded on naive ideals. Rather, Kiva and its MFIs provide a unique and sustainable way for people to help themselves, providing access to services and resources whose immense role in our daily lives we too often take for granted.

For me a Kiva Fellowship will just be the beginning. After completing my placements I plan to enroll in law school, specializing in international law and social entrepreneurship. In this way I hope to carry my Kiva experience with me, and to build upon its foundations in my future professional life.