Cusco on My Mind

REPOST FROM THE LA VIDA IDEALIST BLOG AND KIVA FELLOWS BLOG

If you haven’t heard, there have been terrible floods in Cusco, Peru in the past week. Since we are in the thick of la epoca de la lluvia (the rainy season), rain is expected but the level of destruction seen in the area is unimaginable.

Affected house in Oropesa

Tourism is the main industry in Cusco, and the damage produced by the rain does substantial damage on the Cusco economy. From the February 3rd warden message from the U.S. Embassy in Peru, I read that Machu Picchu is closed and the rail line between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes is closed due to landslides until possibly March. I also read that tourists were stranded in Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Incan archeological site Machu Picchu) and that the conditions were excruciating. Luckily, helicopters eventually evacuated all the tourists from the town.

Unfortunately, my Kiva clients in Cusco don’t have that luxury.

I met a Kiva communal bank called Virgen Estrella de Oropesa in Oropesa, a small town south of Cusco in November while working as a Kiva Fellow for Asociación Arariwa, a microfinance institution that has worked in the Cusco region of Peru for the past 25 years. This town is known as the capital of bread because of its delicious “pan chuta.” In fact, the town has so many bakeries that the smell of baking bread permeates the town’s air. In their Kiva profile video, the from Virgen Estrella de Oropesa are laughing and smiling as they get together for their Kiva profile photo. If you had the pleasure of meeting them in person like I had, they were even more animated, making fun of their loan officer Jacob for not having a girlfriend. Unfortunately, most jokes told outside of the city are told in Quechua, so I just got the translated version (definitely not the same!)

Now the town of Oropesa is under water, and many of the talented entrepreneurs I met in Oropesa have lost their homes and businesses.

I wrote in my last La Vida Idealist entry about when you live somewhere you feel a much closer connection with your adopted home than if you had visited for a week or two for vacation. And if you work or volunteer in your new home, like I did in Cusco with Arariwa, you feel an even stronger connection to the place and its people. I am sure the volunteers in Haiti feel similarly, like fellow climber and volunteer Krista.

My friend and colleague, the Kiva coordinator at Arariwa, Raquel Villafuerte, recently wrote me an email in which she said (translated into English):

“Hi there,

…Arariwa is collecting money from employees to help. We are also collecting food at the offices here. If you want you can send money to buy supplies. In reality all you have known – has been for the most part lost – the main avenue of Aguas Calientes and many houses in Anta and south from Saylla to Urcos are under water.”

Organizations like Kiva have responded with updates about how the tragedy has affected Kiva/Arariwa entrepreneurs, including links on how to help victims.

I read a La Vida Idealist post about the tragedy, which included photos of the flooded streets of Cusco city. But from other photos I have seen, the provinces of Cusco were harder hit by the floods than the city.

Citizens have been collecting supplies in the Plaza de Armas, while virtual support, fundraisers, supply collections and updates have come through online and offline news sources and social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I have also heard many updates through the Couchsurfing La Paz group, of which I am a member.

Now living and volunteering in La Paz, I see homes located on the edge of cliffs where there has been and continues to be severe erosion. As I go by, I always think that one day when the rain is strong enough, these homes could fall. I recently heard of landslides in Chasquipampa, a neighborhood of La Paz (and I do have Kiva clients in Chasquipampa). A friend of mine here works as a volunteer gathering and distributing supplies, which she did last Friday after the landslides. Another friend told me that a victim who lost his home in the landslide is staying in his church.

Although tragedies like this one are tough to experience and hear about, it’s great to know that ordinary citizens become dedicated volunteers and come through when people need it.

Here’s how to help the victims of the floods in Cusco and how to support disaster relief efforts around the world.

Sheethal Shobowale is working as a Kiva Fellow at microfinance institution Emprender in La Paz Bolivia.

Financial Literacy and Microfinance

Un favorcito: Please help Kiva win a million dollars! Go to http://apps.facebook.com/chasecommunitygiving/charities/1112149, add the app, click to vote and you’re done!

REPOST FROM THE KIVA FELLOWS BLOG

By Sheethal Shobowale, KF9, Peru

Doris, one of the loan officers at Asociación Arariwa, has been working with clients in Urubamba and Cusco for 17 years.

I sat in on one of the monthly loan payment meetings of one of her communal banks, Aguas Buenas. All members paid their monthly payments on time, but two of the members asked permission beforehand not to attend. Because of their absence, Doris commented on the importance of attending the monthly meetings, saying “No vamos a lograr nada” (We won’t achieve anything this way). She even called one of the absent members on her cellphone to remind them of the importance of attending monthly meetings.

Attendance is importance especially since during each meeting, loan officers teach a short workshop on different topics such as financial literacy, business training, family well-being or health. In this meeting Doris taught a lesson on setting financial goals. Having done some financial literacy workshops for teenagers and some credit counseling for adults in my work with the Lower East Side Credit Union in New York, I was excited and honored to see Arariwa’s financial literacy training in action, especially by a loan officer as experience as Doris.

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Feliz Año Nuevo de La Paz!

I just recently finished my Kiva Fellow placement with Asociación Arariwa in Cusco and just moved to La Paz, Bolivia to work with Emprender for 3 months.

Peru Novedades

Onto Bolivia…

  • Gran Manzana: La Paz is so much bigger and cosmopolitan than Cusco.  Being a New Yorker and having spent time in India, you’d think I would be ready for it…but I wasn’t.  Check out the photo.  It seems to go on forever…
Photo of La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia

  • Emprender has 6 branches in La Paz as well as offices in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.  I have been to 3 of the La Paz branches to visit clients so far plus I’m worked from the central office in Sopocachis.  The entrepreneurs I have met so far are such nice people and the branch managers/loan officers have been so welcoming and fun.  Look out for my journal updates and in the meantime, here is a link to loan to Emprender entrepreneurs on Kiva
  • Local fiestas: This weekend I was invited to a local festival in a small town called Caquiaviri in honor of San Antonio Abad, patron and protector of caquiavireños (people from Caquiaviri) This aymara pre carnival event is accompanied of Ch’utas dancers, flutes and Tarkas groups
  • Transport: My favorite topic!  In La Paz, Once every seat is taken on a minibus, they don’t allow more people on the bus.  What a difference from Cusco!  And so much more humane.

I’d love to hear from you!  Please say hello if you have a moment!  I miss New York and would to hear what’s going on in your world.

Not a Kiva Lender yet?  Visit Kiva.org to start lending today!

Abrazos!

Sheethal

Sheethal Shobowale just finished her KF9 placement with Asociación Arariwa in Cusco, Peru and recently started her KF10 placement with Emprender in La Paz, Bolivia.

Falso! A Musing on Fake Money in Peru

REPOST FROM THE KIVA FELLOWS BLOG

By Sheethal Shobowale, KF9, Peru

Counterfeit money is a very serious topic in Peru. There is so much false money floating around that it is extremely possible that at some point or another, you will try to buy some fruit from the woman selling fruit on the corner and she will return your bill or coin exclaiming, “falso!” (false!)

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Peruvian MFI Asociación Arariwa’s 25th Anniversary Celebration

REPOST FROM THE KIVA FELLOWS BLOG

By Sheethal Shobowale, KF9, Peru

I had the pleasure of attending Asociación Arariwa’s 25th anniversary celebrations. In true Peruvian form, the celebrating lasted two weeks with lots of fanfare – a parade, music, dancing, eating and of course, Cusqueña (Peruvian beer) and sweet Peruvian wine.

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#MifiMon: Women and Microfinance

This Monday, I participated on the #MiFiMon Twitter panel about Women and Microfinance.  #MifiMon stands for Microfinance Monday, but is shortened due to the restrictions in text length in Twitter posts.  Here is a link to the tweets from the discussion on Twazzup.

For those of you who have not yet heard of Twitter discussions, it is a way have a real-time discussion about a certain topic on Twitter.  During #MifiMon we discuss microfinance.  #SocEntChat is another discussion about social entrepreneurship.  Using the hashtag #MiFiMon, we tag each comment so that it can be found in Twitter searches.  Twazzup is a service that helps isolate and track a real-time discussion on Twitter.  I found it to be a little slow to update, but that could have been because I’m in Cusco and it might have been the internet connection.

#MiFiMon Chat about Women and Microfinance

#MiFiMon Chat about Women and Microfinance

Twitter chats (just like any type of discussion, conference, workshop, etc) link  your organization with your field of work.  Your thoughts, opinions and links shared in chats can engage new and current supporters with your organization.  I received some new Twitter followers during this chat, and most of the are work in the field of microfinance or are interested in the topic.  Since I am a Kiva Fellow, I shared stories that my colleagues and I have written during our time in the field from the Kiva Fellows Blog.

If you are interested in going one more step and host a Twitter chat, here’s a blog post from @johnhaydon with a video on How to create successful chats on Twitter with hashtags

I also wrote the summary of the #MiFiMon discussion after the chat.  Below is the summary –

REPOST FROM THE OPPORTUNITY INTERNATIONAL BLOG

#MifiMon: Women and Microfinance

mifimon

#mifimon

The following is a guest post by Sheethal Shobowale, Kiva Fellow at MFIs Asociación Arariwa in Cusco, Peru and Emprender in La Paz, Bolivia starting in January.

Interested in learning about microfinance? Follow our biweekly Twitter discussion group #mifimon (because Microfinance Mondays was too long for Twitter’s 140-character limit). Our aim is to host an exchange of ideas about issues relevant to the microfinance industry. You’re welcome to lend your voice, whether you’re a practitioner in the field or a newbie just learning the basics. Just end your messages with the hashtag #mifimon!

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Halloween in Cusco

REPOST FROM THE KIVA FELLOWS BLOG

 

By Sheethal Shobowale, KF9, Peru

In Cusco, Peru, Halloween is celebrated in full force. It kinda feels like home (side note: home for me is Brooklyn, New York). Back in New York, I usually put some pumpkins on my stoop and make some curried pumpkin soup. This year, Cynthia McMurray (my Field Support Specialist) and I are going to carve a zapallo and make some soup. So it will feel like home!

Here are some photos from Halloween in Cusco –

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I’ll add more over the weekend when I see people dressed up and out trick ‘o treatin’… Hopefully I’ll get to see some cute little kids dressed up like pumpkins.

Happy Halloween from Cusco, Peru!

Celebrate Halloween by lending to Kiva borrowers.

Sheethal Shobowale is currently serving as a Kiva Fellow in Cusco, Peru with Asociación Arariwa

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