Monday, August 16, 2010

Peace Corps Volunteers and Kiva Fellows

By Amber Barger, KF12, Mongolia

The goals of the United States Peace Corps and the Kiva Fellows Program fit quite well with each other. Because of this, I’m able to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) and Kiva Fellow at the same time. Both programs promote cross-cultural awareness and capacity building within the given host community. Let’s look at how the volunteer programs relate to each other.
The United States Peace Corps’ mission has three goals:
  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
The Kiva Fellows Program corresponds with the Peace Corps structure. The Fellows focus on helping to improve the knowledge, capacity, and systems within their assigned Microfinance Institution (MFI). Then, inherently, by working with the Fellow, the MFI staff learns a bit about the culture that the Fellow comes from. The Fellows also create an international awareness on behalf of their host communities by visiting borrowers, posting journal updates, creating borrower press profiles, writing on the Fellows blog, etc. Kiva Fellows can meet the needs of all three of the Peace Corps’ goals.

From my own experience, I’d say that Peace Corps, as a whole, focuses more on culture aspects like learning the local language, integrating into the host community, and living like the local people, than the Kiva Fellowship Program. Peace Corps supports community integration by providing intensive language training, local culture trainings, a living stipend at the same level of locals, and a contract period of 27 months of service. The Peace Corps framework lends itself to integration within the community, and then from developing relationships within the community, the Peace Corps Volunteer can build successful work programs.

The Kiva Fellowship can be a much shorter program, with a minimum of three months of service. In my experience, the Kiva Fellowship Program focuses more on the capacity building of the MFI and implementing a work plan that focuses on creating an international awareness of the host country’s people. The Fellowship Program attracts professionals who have a variety of skills in consulting, microfinance, marketing, photography, non-profit management, investment banking, etc. Each Fellow has a unique set of skills that the program matches with an MFI that needs those specific skills. The Fellowship Program creates a work plan that the Fellow and host MFI follow to meet the goals that Kiva has for that specific MFI. During the Fellowship training week, it focuses mostly on the Fellow’s work plan items and how to do them within the context of Kiva.

If you’re looking for an entry into international development, I’d encourage you to look at both Peace Corps and the Kiva Fellows Program. I often hear a saying that says, “You can’t get a job in international development without a job in international development.” These volunteer programs are great stepping stones into the field. About eight Kiva Fellows have been past Peace Corps Volunteers and I know of a couple of Kiva Fellows who are looking to join the Peace Corps.

I look forward to using my two years of experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer to assist me in my Kiva Fellowship. Please follow me over the next year as I try to give you a look into Mongolian borrowers, culture and business practices, among other things.

Rural Area outside of Uvurkhangai Province, Mongolia

Check out how to apply to be a Kiva Fellow.

Check out more information about Peace Corps International and Peace Corps Mongolia.

If you are a returning Peace Corps Volunteer, please join the Kiva RPCV lending team

Amber Barger is currently working as a Kiva Fellow.
Amber’s story was originally posted on "Kiva Stories from the Field" on August 14, 2010. To see the original post, please click here.