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Kiva Fellows letter of intent

To further my knowledge and understanding of microcredit, I am applying to be a Kiva Fellow for the fall semester.  Below is the letter of inent I wrote in my application.  I’m very excited to hear from them!

Microfinance fascinates me.  With all of the undergraduate research I have done on international development, microcredit stands out as one of the most effective forms of development.  While more traditional development has led to increased dependency on the West and has largely been counterproductive, microlending has created lasting effects among the world’s poor.  I first decided to do more research on the concept after reading Muhammad Yunus’s “Banker to the Poor.”  I was moved by the story of his first loan: Sufiya Begum, a Bangladeshi woman, was confined to a life of poverty for a lack of twenty-two cents.  After reading the book, I learned how microcredit has increased women’s empowerment, decreased hunger and poverty and given people hope who had none.Driven to find out more, I made microcredit and fair trade the topic of my senior thesis.  Through my research, I have learned about additional positive effects of microcredit.  Microfinance institutions give more than just credit: they provide training, insurance and savings programs for their borrowers.  The participants are given an opportunity to develop skills such as product development and marketing which can lead to the creation of better products, and therefore, a higher income potential.  The social effects of group lending programs are astounding.  When a community works together, they are all the more successful.

Last September, I created an internship for a fair-trade store in Raleigh, NC called Beleza.  I saw that the store needed help and wanted the chance to utilize my business knowledge in an area that I am deeply passionate about.  I recruited additional interns and we have improved the store’s website and created a store on eBay to facilitate the sale of products online.  I envision a synergistic link between fair trade and microfinance.

With all of the research I have done this semester on microcredit, I desire the chance to be a part of the financial revolution that has swept the world.  I crave the opportunity for an extended stay in a developing nation; my experiences in developing economies thus far have made a major impact on my life.  International development has been historically plagued by paternalistic “development interventions.”  I strive to be a servant leader.  The idea behind servant leadership is that a leader must place the needs of his or her team before addressing any personal needs.  Furthermore, the leader must recognize the inherent value of team collaboration and should not think that he or she has the best ideas.  I am prepared to extend my leadership skills to those in the community without being paternalistic.

I have permission from my University to take a one semester leave in order that I may serve as a Kiva Fellow.  Though I have not graduated, I have earned 155 credits and would benefit from the opportunity to be a Fellow before graduating.  A fellowship with Kiva would be a valuable contribution towards my undergraduate career and would prepare me for future work in the field of international development.

the girl effect

Last night, I went to a benefit dinner for a campus organization that my friends in Caldwell Fellows founded called Bricks Breaking Boundaries.  It is a response to the call for action in this year’s common reading initiative, “Half the Sky.”  In the book, the authors reveal that human sex trafficking is one of the major issues affecting women worldwide.

We heard a speaker from NC Stop Human Trafficking who discussed trafficking issues in our own back yard.  She proposed that to end trafficking worldwide there are many actions Americans can take in the form of activism.  She also told the audience the importance of how we spend our dollar, and devoted a good five minutes to the topic of fair trade.

After she presented, we had the chance to discuss with our tables and pose questions.  I was amazed that the entire conversation turned to fair trade.  Everyone wanted to know more about it and how it made a difference!  I am so glad that the word is getting out.  After the session, a student in nuclear engineering came up to me to ask me more information and we had a great discussion while on the bus.

We also watched this video, which will give an overview of the horrors facing impoverished girls around the world.

So…how does fair trade make a difference?  When a mother is able to make a higher income through fair trade, she can have savings.  These savings can pay for her daughter’s education, just like you saw in the movie.

eBay success!

I’m feeling good about the eBay project.  We had a few sales and the store has been up for about a month.  This is more than we ever would sell on the old store, which was also costing us a lot more to run per month.  eBay is much faster – with the combined help of Lindsay writing the descriptions, we’re getting the new Turkish jewelry put up.

PDail is talking about running a special to get people who live outside of Raleigh ordering products…It’s probably going to involve the store customers having an incentive to contact their friends/relatives and encourage them to get on our store!

If you still haven’t seen the site, check it out here:  http://stores.ebay.com/Beleza-jewelry-and-accessories

an update on my research

This posting is about fair trade and doesn’t discuss the internship.

If you’ve been following all year, you are aware that I am writing a senior thesis on the combined power of fair trade and microcredit loans.  I submitted a draft a few weeks ago, got some feedback, and handed in a second draft.  My professor had a fantastic idea for my paper…instead of just telling the reader what I believe through the research, I’m going to show them.  And now, I will show you…

Uru woman

The Uru women make much of the food they eat out of the same reed used for building their islands, houses and boats.

 

The Uru People (Los Uros in Spanish) live in Lake Titicaca, which is bordered by Peru and Bolivia.  They are a pre-Incan people who speak three languages, including Spanish.  I was reading the life history of Cristina, an Uru woman who does fair trade.  It was all in Spanish.  Understanding nearly all of what I was reading, I became confused when Cristina narrated how she would go to school as a child.  I thought it said that she would float on a plant from her island to the school every day.  Confused but intrigued, I asked my Chilean roommate to translate.  Turns out the Uru make their own boats out of reeds…but it gets better.  They also make their own islands out of the same reeds.  They make the islands they live on!!!  It’s fascinating, and I suggest you skim the wikipedia article for a basic introduction:  Uru people

Uru Island

In all, there are 40 islands like this. There are about 1200 Uru left.

Cristina tells us how she got started in producing handicrafts as a child.  At 15, she encouraged the other Uru women to make their own group to help sell the products.  Eventually, it evolved into CIAP: The Inter-regional Center for Peruvian Artisans which is a fair trade organization.  Cristina’s story should help the readers of my paper understand why fair trade is so important.  In fact, her story will count as ethnographic data, which is just as important as the inclusion of numerical data in a paper like this.

If you speak Spanish, read Cristina’s narrative here:  it is fascinating. Autobiografía de Cristina Suaña.

spring break

Hi everyone!  If you have landed here from either the Poole College of Management or the NCSU Bulletin, thanks for taking time to read about our project!  The interns are not in the “office” this week (aka the library); we are all going on break.

If this is the first time you have heard about our project, check out the rest of the blog!

Here are links to find out more:  Beleza Beleza on eBay

Interested in fair trade?  Contact me at ajmarti2@ncsu.edu

Also…some very good friends of mine from the Caldwell Fellows program are headed to Atencingo, México for spring break.  Check out Saul Flores’s story here: The Walk of the Immigrants

project featured in The Bulletin!

Some more publicity heads our way.  I’m super busy with a paper right now and we’re taking a break for Spring Break, but check out the article:

New World Order

our eBay store

Today’s the official day!  Check out our fair trade store on eBay!

Beleza on eBay

Beleza on eBay

eBay update

Our team is working on putting the store on ebay still. Today, Christian and I tried to put more lambas up, but for some reason ebay wouldn’t accept atll 27 of them so we’ll have to continue that later. Lindsay and I put up the alpaca and brass semiprecious bracelets and rings from our fair trade store as well as the pashmina scarves. We also had David Hunt from News Services, who is a public communication specialist, visit us today and take pictures for an article that will be posted in the ncsu.edu website about our fair trade store, Beleza.

beleza in the news

We made it to the Technician, NC State’s Student Newspaper!  Check out the story:

Local Shop Founded on Fair Trade Philosophy

Beleza specials at the party

This just in!!! Beleza specials on Saturday:

10-2 PM: E V E R Y T H I N G in the store 20%-50% off!

2-4 PM: Lucky prize! Draw a prize from a jar – discounts for 20% off, 50% off and FREE products!

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