Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Featured Volunteer: Catharine Wall

By Lindsay Monnet, Review and Translation Program Intern

“These loans give me a much greater appreciation and respect for these people and what they do to survive. Perhaps it is the most humble and basic loans that are really the most remarkable.”

City: Riverside, California
Language: Spanish
Team: Mosaico
Time with Kiva: Since July of 2011
Outstanding Contributions to Kiva: From her regular input on the Volunteer Forum to the amazing number of loans she has translated and reviewed in her short time with Kiva, she is a great addition to the Review and Translation Program. She is also very diligent in sussing out rare regional terms and has a keen eye for spotting issues in loans.

How did you find out about Kiva?
My husband had just read Half the Sky, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, so I started poking around on the Kiva website and realized I could translate. A year later, I started translating.

Why did you choose to volunteer your time with Kiva?
When I signed up, it appealed to me because it was a way to use my Spanish. It’s just so interesting, and I learn so much. I can’t imagine learning more about things I thought I had little interest in. It’s really rewarding in a very unexpected way.

From where do you typically review Kiva loans?
From my dining room table on my laptop. Sometimes I move into the breakfast nook or the patio.

What is your favorite partner or region?
I don’t have a favorite place, but I certainly enjoy loans from places I’ve been because they give me insight. For example, I lived and studied in Peru for six months and it gives me insight into the Peruvian loans. I recognize local terms and foods, and I don’t have to ask myself, “What is that?” As a lender, I tend to lend to borrowers in Latin America, but I plan to expand.

Tell us about a memorable profile you have reviewed.
I love the loans where they wax poetic about the place and people. Even though I know it’s stock text, it brings it alive. I remember one from Colombia that was for food. The borrower was a Palenque woman, which I had never heard of, and I ended up doing a lot of research about Afro-Caribbeans and learning a lot. It brought out the teacher in me and made me wish I had students to teach it to. I even ended up lending to her. Some loans from Latin America also come to mind where people sell gum and shine shoes in the city streets. I haven’t been back to Latin America since I started translating for Kiva, and these loans give me a much greater appreciation and respect for these people and what they do to survive. Perhaps it is the most humble and basic loans that are really the most remarkable.

Where is your favorite place in the world to travel?
In the last three years I have been to six Latin American countries (only one of which I had visited before) and the UK for the first time, and I loved every minute of it. I would love to go back, but there’s only so much time. Although it’s a bit cliché, my favorite place is New York. I’m currently teaching a class called “Poets and Painters of Hispanic New York” through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of California, Riverside.

Tell us an unusual or surprising fact about yourself.
My first full-time professional job was as an indexer. It required a master’s degree in Hispanic Literature, which is what I had. I did that for seven years, and translating for Kiva reminds me a lot of being an indexer in its attention to detail, close work with terminology, and having to get things done as perfectly as possible but knowing you have time constraints.

Photo provided by Catharine Wall, Volunteer Translator