In August of 2008, I set foot in Dheisheh, a large Palestinian refugee camp just outside of Bethlehem. I came to Israel to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and after weeks of hearing about these camps and the people that lived in them, I finally had a chance to visit. A local NGO worker met our van outside of the camp and led us through the narrow streets lined with half-built and half-destroyed houses to a local family residence. The next four hours have since proved to be the foundation for the profound shift of my perspective on aid and my introduction to the world of microfinance.
Talking to this family, I realized that because of the incredible amount of aid that poured into the camp, most of the families “lacked” nothing. However, as the conversation continued, I became aware of an almost tangible absence of hope that pervaded through the camp. For years, the lack of mobility and resources had crippled the camp’s working populace leaving them both without any form of occupation and without a sense of purpose.
Your occupation, what you do, is inextricably linked to your identity. Most graduates holding a degree in business eventually tie this identity to a corporate job that will allow them to climb the corporate ladder and pursue the “American Dream”. Over the last few years, I have tied my own identity to something different: through service around Los Angeles at organizations like Midnight Mission on Skid Row and Power House in Watts and to volunteering in Buenos Aires, Argentina (while I studied abroad) at an orphanage and children’s hospital. However, it has been difficult seeing the poverty in these communities perpetuated year after year considering the amount of aid that is poured into them.
When the first loan I gave to a group in the Dominican Republic through Kiva was finally paid off, I realized the extensive, long-term impact that a group of 30 strangers could have on a community or individual in terms of job creation and economic development. And this conclusion of the effect and need for microfinance programs (as a tool to lift people out of poverty) has been further punctuated by every subsequent travel and volunteer experience I have had.
For these reasons, I desire to be a Kiva Fellow. Because I know that assisting people like the family on the West Bank and the community in the Dominican Republic through microfinance helps to afford them with a sense of purpose as they are able to work to provide for their own wellbeing. And because I know what you do defines who you are, I wish to work toward the economic development of these less fortunate communities through microfinance. Finally, I wish to be a Kiva Fellow because of Kiva’s unique and effective model of connecting lenders around the world to specific borrowers in need.