Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Featured Volunteer: Kathy Melymuka

By Alicia Silverstein, Review and Translation Program Intern

“Before learning about Kiva in the Wall Street Journal, I hadn’t considered the internet’s ability to enable microfinance.”

City: Duxbury, MA

Language: English

Team: Kiva Comma Squad

Time with Kiva: Since September 2010

Outstanding Contributions to Kiva: Since joining the team, Kathy has really put her heart into editing for Kiva and supporting her fellow editing and translation volunteers on the Volunteer Forum; and for the past year she has consistently appeared on the Top 10 Editors list!

How did you find out about Kiva?

One morning, my husband and I were discussing how great it would be if there was a way to directly help people on a one-on-one basis. Shortly after that, I happened upon a blurb about microfinance in the Wall Street Journal in which Kiva was mentioned. I went straight to kiva.org and made a loan! At the time, I was the features editor for the IT magazine Computerworld and I decided to do a cover story on Kiva, highlighting their innovative use of the internet. I was able to visit their San Francisco headquarters, which at the time consisted of a team of only 7 very young people who had just reached their $1 million loan mark. They were awesome: fearless and so optimistic! I was so proud of them! A few years later I commissioned a follow-up article on Kiva (another cover story).

Why did you choose to volunteer your time with Kiva?

I decided to become a Kiva volunteer after retiring. In order to stay busy and do something worthwhile, I began learning Spanish and editing for Kiva on a daily basis.

From where do you typically review loans?

Every day, after taking Sam (my loveable golden retriever puppy) for a nice, long walk, I pour myself a cup of coffee, sit in my family room and spend an hour or so reviewing Kiva loans. During the summer I work outside on my deck.

What is your favorite partner or region?

My favorite region to review loans from is Kenya. The people seem so optimistic and the country looks beautiful.
Tell us about a memorable profile you have reviewed.

No specific loans come to mind in terms of reviewing. However, as a lender I am particularly interested in the profiles of single, young women. I like the idea of giving these women a little help in becoming successful entrepreneurs. It gives them independence and options.

Where is your favorite place in the world to travel?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Costa Rica for the first time. It was an incredible country. We stayed near Manuel Antonio National Park where the jungle comes right down the mountains to the ocean. One of my favorite memories is of drinking our morning coffee with the park’s wild monkeys roaming all around us.
Tell us an unusual or surprising fact about yourself.

As a young woman, I was a staffer for the presidential advisory council that worked on Title IX, the Women’s Educational Equity Act, which, among other things, mandated equal opportunity for women and girls in sports. And now Kiva. It’s great to start and end a career with two such meaningful jobs!

Photo courtesy of Kathy Melymuka, Volunteer Editor