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.