Monday, February 23, 2009


Less than a year ago I graduated from the University of Missouri with my Bachelors of Science in Business with an emphasis in finance. When I was nominated as a volunteer I was selected as a business advisor, but when I arrived at permanent site I was placed with a women’s NGO where I had little access to their business plans or financing. Although I love working at this NGO, I have been on the lookout for a side project where I can continue my finance education and share the knowledge and experience which I have.

A couple of months ago this opportunity fell right into my lap at a café while I was waiting for a friend to finish an English club. I was enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee (there is only one restaurant with this luxury in the whole south of Kyrgyzstan,) as I began to converse with a German man, Chris, who was also enjoying a late morning breakfast. As we introduced ourselves it was discovered out that I had a (short) finance background and he was the country director of an international program which funds microcredit financing to the rural populations throughout 13 countries in Africa and Central Asia. Upon this discovery he started telling me that he was looking for somebody to come in and give business trainings on subjects like time management, organization, using the internet and other topics which his employees had never been trained in but that he did not have time to teach them. That morning we agreed that I would start doing basic business trainings for his employees and that I would come to the Osh office once a week so I could get to know his staff and do some assessment on which areas needed attention.

Last Friday was my first day. The office was amazing, it was warm, everyone had a computer, and there was constant electricity and wireless internet!!! Up until last Friday I didn’t think that wireless internet existed in this country! Within a half hour of being in the office, I was in a meeting with the office manager, Anara, (who speaks beautiful English) and Chris. We decided that the first training would be on report writing since Chris had expressed a frustration with the lack of consistency in the reports throughout the 8 branches in Kyrgyzstan. So that day I started designing a presentation on how to write reports which will be presented to all eight branches in southern Kyrgyzstan.

At one point during the day I downloaded a couple documents about this microcredit organization to learn more about their mission and goals. My research turned out to be quite interesting. This organization is a branch of the Aga Khan Development Network which is a not-for-profit, non-denominational, international development agency based in Geneva, Switzerland. It was founded and is directed by the Aga Khan, who is the spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a descendant of the Muslim Prophet, Muhammad. It’s a pretty cool development network that also has projects in economic development, social development and culture preservation.

By lunch time I had been assigned a second project in helping build a commercial leasing contract, a feat way over my head! But despite my insistence on lack of experience and education on writing contracts, Chris persisted that I help one of his employees design a rental lease for an office which they will be moving into shortly. To be honest I am really appreciating a new type of challenge in my work. Although I have been working very hard at my primary site, my energy has been directed to finding and initiating projects, while in this office I am given a finite task and I am to work until I have finished, a method much more common in my prior work experience. I think I will really enjoy the balance of the two work manners.

After a full day of work I was invited out with the office to celebrate Men’s Day! Men’s day is actually today and the whole country has taken the off day to recognize its men…so we celebrated Men’s Day on Friday. Back in the day, this holiday was more like a Labor Day type of holiday where soldiers were to be recognized, but over time it has become a day to celebrate men. This has been another situation where initially I was fairly stunned because in my opinion every day is men’s day, but like so many other things I’ve had to let it go as this is not my issue to confront. So I celebrated Men’s day with the microcredit office! We went out to a nice restaurant where there was lots of eating, dancing, celebrating and of course, all the women gave toasts of appreciation to the men of the office! So a shout out to all my male friends and acquaintances; Happy Men’s Day!

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