And I've Arrived, Hello Philippines!

Why hello there!

I’ve arrived! The flight was L-O-N-G, but fairly painless. Left Pittsburgh at 12:30pm Monday and arrived in Manila at 10:30pm Tuesday night. There is now a 12-hour time difference between the East Coast and me. Northwest Airlines was on time and straightforward with the exception that in booking the flight it said Detroit-Manila but when I got to the airport, nope! You stop in Nagoya, Japan for two hours and have to switch flights. Where was that part in the booking?

I arrived and was met by Rexon, the Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI) Kiva Coordinator and who I soon found out would be with me most days I’m here. This role is newly created by ASHI and a great and crucial step in moving them from the pilot to active phase, so I’m really excited to spend more time with him and hear about the partnership between ASHI and Kiva.

Since it was late, past 11:00pm, he took me right to a hotel they had secured for me for the evening and on the first full-day (Wednesday) we traveled to the Rizal province to a branch office there. To get there we took a taxi to a jeepney to a tricycle (which is like a motorbike with seats). We stayed for a bit and then went by jeepney-tricycle-by foot to meet the President of ASHI, Mila Bunker, or as she is called here, “Ma’am Mila.” She was at an annual conference that brings together all the Microfinance Instiution Presidents in the Philippines. Topics of their sessions range from due diligence to climate change (fascinating). Mila squeezed me in for the lunch hour and we reviewed my work plan, deliverables, their expectations and mine (all of which I’ll share in another blog post).

I asked and received a great oral history of ASHI and of Mila’s involvement. She is very well respected in the region and it’s easy to see why, she’s smart and engaging and really passionate about the Grameen Bank style of microfinance. ASHI are just as excited as I am to move the partnership forward and a huge part of this process is being a Kiva representative. So I’m Kiva to them and to Kiva I’m all things-ASHI, and it’s important to convey messages from both sides but also to really follow-through with goals and expectations. Action-driven results my favorite! In reviewing my schedule we did break down which cities/villages I would be staying in when and Mila and I made plans to meet again in two weeks time.

Rexon and I then traveled back to the Rizal branch office and set out with two members of the staff to meet three borrowers (see next post with pictures). More of this transportation to that transportation, this to that, but at the end of each unpaved road, there stood a borrower. A certified recipient of a loan from ASHI and part of the microfinance wheel.

The branch planned a welcome dinner and to be honest it was a bit of a blur because I was so tired and jet-lagged and had been run around all day with no break. I was taken to another office that had a dorm room to stay in for the night and my head hit the pillow hard by 10:00pm. I should mention that I woke up – wide-awake – at 11:45(pm) and was so disoriented and felt like I had slept for so long that I was worried I slept through my alarm and jumped out of bed and through my clothes on only to walk into the hallway and see outside that it was pitch black and was indeed less that two hours after when I had first gone to sleep. The night continued with me waking up almost hourly, finally giving up around 7:00am when I stretched, did some yoga, and read for 30 minutes before breakfast.

And day 2 begins!

I certainly won’t be capturing every day quite this way, but I did just want to say I’m here and excited to be diving right in at a rapid pace.

Goodnight friends, Sloane

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