Friday, January 7, 2011

Annual Marathon Deemed a Success (Just Hold the Exercise)

Kimberly Friedland, Review and Translation Program Intern

On December 15, 2010, Kiva held its third annual marathon. Remarkably, every participant finished under the four-hour mark. OK, so I admit that no one actually broke a sweat, or for that matter even left the building. In this case, a sharp mind rather than quick feet proved key to success. Such is the nature of Kiva’s Holiday Editing and Translation Marathon, a four-hour event that takes place every December, coinciding with increased lending during this time of year.

For those who are unfamiliar, Kiva depends on a small army of over 400 unsung heroes who volunteer their time to review every loan before it is released for funding on the site. Loan descriptions must be carefully translated into English (or gently edited for clarity, if they are posted in English) and checked for inconsistencies, so this volunteer service is integral to Kiva’s smooth functioning. The volunteers edit and translate remotely from locations all over the world and although they can regularly interact via an online forum, the holiday marathon provides a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face and finally shake hands with (or perhaps kiss twice on the cheek) fellow volunteers.

At the appointed time, marathoners began arriving at the Kiva headquarters in San Francisco and at satellite events in Los Angeles and Seattle. The aim: to translate and edit as many loans as possible within a four-hour time frame. Participants who did not live near one of these three events could join a Skype group chat. The chat provided a way to connect all marathoners, and enabled a rapid-fire dialogue of questions and answers, plus digressions of a less serious nature like virtual exchanges of pizza and drinks.

In the Kiva office, tables were jam-packed with volunteers and Kiva staff members who came to lend a hand. Set against the backdrop of a wall-sized world map on which Post-it notes labeled Kiva Fellows’ locations across the globe, participants clacked away at their laptops. The persistent hum of productive chatter concerning semantics and vocabulary was peppered with exclamations and shared laughs regarding particularly interesting loans.
As an in-office volunteer and first-time marathon attendee, I relished the opportunity to meet fellow volunteers in person who I previously knew only from online interactions. The energy in the Kiva office during the marathon was also inspiring, as so many people worked fervently to translate and edit a large enough loan volume to give Kiva a head start on the holidays.

All in all, 57 marathoners translated and edited over 450 Kiva loans. Bravo, volunteers!

Photo captions:
1. Top: Joe Castrovinci (Kiva Editor) enjoys a lighthearted moment while reviewing loans.
2. Bottom: Angie Yeh (Kiva Translator and Kiva Loan Review Team Leader) and Andy Muesse (Kiva Accounting Coordinator) work on loans. In background: Skype chat with remote volunteers.
Photo credit to Eric Brandt.

Interested in volunteering as a Kiva Editor or Translator? Click here. We add new volunteers to the editing and translation teams periodically as loan volume grows, so your application is welcome even if teams are currently full.