Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kiva's Review and Translation Program Interviews Some of Kiva's All-Star Staff! (Part 2)

Written by Staci Chirchick, Review and Translation Program Intern

Every month, Kiva’s Review and Translation Program (RTP) produces an informative newsletter for its volunteers. It is full of stories and updates about Kiva’s many programs, staff and volunteers. In recognition of Kiva’s 6th birthday, the newsletter recently featured interviews of some our long-term staff members who talked about their involvement with RTP. We’ve decided to share the interviews with our blog community because we think they provide unique insights into the world of Kiva! We’ll be posting one interview a week for three weeks. We invite you to follow along as we get to know:

Here’s Part 2!

Michelle Kreger - Director of Strategic Initiatives

Michelle Kreger with Cameroonian Kiva borrowers

1. How did you first get involved with Kiva, and what different hats have you worn since then?

In 2006 I was living in Costa Rica and working a job that kept me busy during the day, but left me with tons of free time at night. I had been following Kiva in various blogs, and decided to reach to out see if I could do anything to help out from abroad. I ended up getting involved in some of the first Spanish to English translations. This was at a time, remember, when Viva [Kiva’s editing and translating software] didn’t exist – we logged right into the same site that our partners and lenders use. I loved working on translations from my couch in the rainforest; it made me feel a bit closer to home, and the “techie,” fast-paced world I had left behind.

In December of 2006 I moved back home to the Bay Area and happened upon a posting for volunteer Microfinance Partnerships Coordinator. I reached out and a few days later ended up sharing a yam sandwich with Chelsa Bocci [Kiva’s Community Marketing Director] at Atlas Café – this was my interview. We talked about what the job would entail, and I immediately said yes. And thus it began - for the first few months I volunteered part time, but this quickly turned into a full-time commitment. Having been tasked with finding new organizations to invest in, I decided to enroll in accounting classes so I could figure out what assets and liabilities were!

A few months in, Kiva offered me a contract position, and I was ecstatic – this was my absolute dream job. Soon thereafter, an opportunity arose to travel to Bolivia and Peru to try and get a few partners to sign up and work with us, and I snatched it up. There was not very much due diligence in place at that time, so basically I traveled around and tried to get MFIs to take a chance on our idea. A series of connections, research, and a whole lot of work led us to signing on 8 partners within the first few months of my visit to South America. We were all psyched.

Its now been 5 ½ years and I’ve learned a fair bit about accounting, how to do due diligence, and have traveled to over 35 countries for Kiva – first in Latin America, and later in Africa and the Middle East. As 2011 comes to a close I’m starting to look at how Kiva can leverage our social capital in even more impactful ways as part of our new Strategic Initiatives Group. If there’s one thing that has stayed constant about Kiva, it’s that it's never boring.

2. What one thing at Kiva still makes your heart race?

There is an energy around Kiva that is really magical – from lenders to volunteers to partners, borrowers and staff, Kiva attracts people who are passionate about creating change, and practical about doing it. The energy of everyone involved really keeps me going here. Just like me, everyone has their own story of how they got involved, and it may not be surprising to hear that almost everyone starts with some sort of volunteer engagement. Kiva’s not really a place you work – it’s a place that draws you in, and it quickly becomes hard to escape!

3. What has been one of the most challenging things you have had to overcome at Kiva?

For me, one of the most challenging things is balancing travel – especially in remote areas – with the demands of day-to-day life and work. It's not easy to take off on a jet plane once a month and still find a way to take classes, maintain relationships, go to the gym, and try to live a “normal” California life. These are, of course, things that most folks who travel have to deal with. But what’s different is that the places we go to are not your typical “business destinations”… They’re often buggy, have long bumpy bus rides, lack of electricity, and involve new languages and cultures. It's very exciting, but can also get tiring at times.

4. How have the volunteers affected your role at Kiva?

Kiva could literally not run without the support and work of all our volunteers. From editing and translating loans, to visiting partners out in the field, to coordinating communications and bringing together our community, volunteers really are the fuel that makes the Kiva engine run. In many ways the editors and translators are the closest to what we do – they “meet” each borrower as they review their stories, and are also the first line of defense for making sure the profiles represent the borrowers’ loans with accuracy, integrity and dignity. We are so grateful for all of the efforts of our volunteer teams!

If you are interested in volunteering with RTP, check out their page on our website!