Preparations for Vietnam

I am very new to the world of blogging, but over the next four months this will be my primary role for an organization called Kiva.org. Kiva’s mission is severely simple, but at the same time very powerful: connecting people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. What better thing for the world could an organization do?

Because of my belief in microfinance I have joined Kiva.org as a volunteer to work in Hanoi, Vietnam for four months with an organization called SEDA. My primary role will be interviewing borrowers to see what kind of impact the loans have had on their lives, whether good or bad.  Then I will post journals about the borrowers which will include information such as what they used their loan for, how the loan affected their business, life, family, etc., what their goals are, and if they plan on getting more loans. While these are a subset of the questions I will be asking, there will be many more. The question that I will have to constantly be asking myself is ‘is microfinance actually doing anything for these people?’ and I imagine I’ll have to ask myself in this case if microfinance is actually helping those who need it most. We’ll see what will happen and how things will work out.

I have been preparing to go to Vietnam now for well over a month and have gotten all the icky shots that I needed and all the training required by Kiva.org. It will be interesting to follow my fellow fellows as we will all be posting blogs to the main kiva blog at fellowsblog.kiva.org….please check it out! The training was quite intense. We learned a lot about Kiva’s work, and what we’ll be doing in 5 8-hour long crash courses. Hopefully I’ll be prepared. While the information was excellent, there was a lot of it and I feel like I’ll be hitting the ground running upon arrival with the sand over my head.

My biggest concerns pre-departure were three-fold: first I was worried about where I would be living upon arrival. Hanoi is a crazy city and filled with tons of ex-pats and my first housing situation is a month long stay with three Aussie and British ex-pats. I’m exciting about making friends with these people but at the same time I am a bit bummed about not living with Vietnamese residents as I really want to immerse myself into the culture. My second concern is my lack of skills in Vietnamese. I hopefully will have a translator with me in the field, but for the most part, the poor borrowers will not know very much English. My third and final concern is actually quite silly: I am afraid of crossing the street. Apparently, traffic in Hanoi is so hectic that the streets are like a never ending school of swimming sardines! No space between any two vehicles moving about! Hopefully I’ll be able to just not look in any direction except straight ahead and the motos will drive right around me!

Anyway, this post is long enough and I’ll be updating it frequently. Please feel free to leave comments and let me know how you all are doing! Cheers, and best of luck.

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One Response to “Preparations for Vietnam”

  1. Gillian Says:

    Hi Nate
    i am so proud of you. i am in Cambodia right now. too bad we can’t meet up. have a wonderful time. love Gillian

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