Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Featured Volunteer: Sophie Narayan translates up a storm in Tokyo

“Sometimes I find it funny to think that I, a French person, am in Tokyo, translating a loan profile from Togo or Tajikistan for Kiva, which is based in San Francisco, and that someone from Australia or Sweden will fund it," says Review and Translation Volunteer Sophie Narayan. "I guess the world is getting smaller!”

About Sophie

City: Tokyo, Japan

Language: French, Russian

Team: Team: Baobab

Volunteer time: Since November 2011

Outstanding Contributions to Kiva: 
In less than a year with the program, Sophie Narayan has translated over 730 French and Russian loans, and has often been featured on our list of top French translators in terms of volume.


Kiva: How did you find out about Kiva?
Sophie: I think I first heard about Kiva during a trip I took to China. We were in our hotel room late at night, looking for something interesting to watch on TV, and there was a documentary about microfinance, featuring Kiva. I wrote down "" on a piece of paper and promised myself to look more into it when we got home.

Why did you choose to volunteer your time with Kiva?
I started volunteering because I thought it would be a good way to get involved in translation again, which I hadn't done for several years. But my motivation has now changed. I volunteer for Kiva not just because I like to replace French or Russian words with English ones, but because I am very excited to be part of something much bigger than myself. I believe that every profile I translate makes a difference, and I am very happy to help.

What is your favorite Field Partner or region?
I don't think that I have a favorite partner or region, but I enjoy translating profiles that tell you about the borrower's dream -- buying a house, a car, opening a bakery, sending their children to school. Some of these people's stories stay with me for a long time, and I hope that their dreams will come true.

Tell us about a memorable profile you've encountered.
I once translated a profile from Senegal in which the borrower was a teacher who had become blind before retiring. He had decided to open a school for the blind and was requesting a loan to purchase the necessary materials and supplies. After submitting my translation, I went upstairs to take a shower, then came back to my computer, and the loan had been funded up to 80%! It had only taken 15 minutes for people from all over the world to come together and lend money to "my" borrower in Africa. 

Where is your favorite place in the world to travel?
I have had the opportunity to travel a lot and to live in many different countries since I left France at age 18 -- six years in Switzerland, more than 15 in the U.S., and now almost seven in Japan. I also spent a semester in Russia when it was still the Soviet Union. Now, my favorite place in the world is my own native region of Burgundy in France.

Tell us an unusual or surprising fact about yourself.
I suppose our family is a bit unusual, since our three children are all adopted from India. My husband is also originally from India, so I am the only non-Indian in our family. Our kids are now 20, 14 and 10, and although they drive me crazy sometimes, I still can't believe how lucky we are to have found each other.

Want to volunteer for Kiva? Go to

Photo provided by Sophie Narayan.