One Month with Kiva

Today marks the completion of our first month of loans on Kiva.org!

This first month of Vittana students on Kiva has been met with huge success. Our partners have been posting directly to Kiva’s web platform with ease and educational loans have been wildly popular! Thank you to the Vittana community that continues to support our students and to the Kiva community that has welcomed our students and joined us in our mission.

This month $182,000 worth of Vittana loans were funded and 300 students were supported. This represents one of the most successful months Vittana has had on record. We’ve had trouble keeping up with the demand and many of you have written in sharing that the link we share, kiva.org/vittana was empty. On average our loans were funded in 18.5 hours from when they were posted.

Our partners are benefitting from this quick student funding and increase in the amount of capital available to them. 300 students from 11 countries have already been funded! Many of our MFIs forecast that they will be able to grow their portfolio and reach more students this year because of it.  For those that loved the student lending experience, check out Vittana students on Kiva.

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Vittana Launches in India!

Vittana is now active in India!

Barely four months after we brought Parvati Patil on as Regional Program Manager to focus solely on building our programs in India we have an active parter, WSDS-Initiate. Vittana’s program Director Sanjaya Punyasena comments, “my first Vittana trip to India was in March 2011. Three years later I am so thrilled that we can officially say we’re active in India!”

India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world, and has been witnessing healthy growth in its number of institutions and enrollment in the last few decades. Despite its growth India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of 16% was much below the world average of 27%, as well as that of other emerging countries such as China (26%) and Brazil (36%) in 2010. Additionally, there is wide disparity in the GER of higher education across states and the Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR) in urban and rural areas, and gender- and community-wise. But India’s education sector has been growing. There were 12,748 diploma-granting institutions in the country as of 2011-12. With 18.2% of India’s population is between the ages 15 and 24 (about 250 million) the student loan sector is prime to grow dramatically in the coming years.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.51.23 AM Continue reading

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Profile: Students of Cambodia

We’ve written about our partnership launch in Cambodia before and shared about the hardship of building student loans programs. and today we want to focus on three students who have received a loan from KREDIT Microfinance. Our longtime supporter, friend, and volunteer, Lisa Bontje, met with these students on February 6th in Phnom Penh.

Chhout Soksan

Chhout Soksan

Chhout is 20 years old and from the Prey Veng Province. She is studying nursing at the International University in Phnom Penh and lives with friends in the capital. Chhout found out about the loan because her parents are clients of KREDIT Microfinance already. Her father works as a civil servant and her mother is a tailor. Chhout has two younger brothers in 11th and 9th grade. She hopes to be a role model for them by being the first person in her family to graduate from college. Though they are only two and a half hours away, Chhout says she misses her family and that living away from them has been the hardest part of adjusting to school. She shares that without this loan she doesn’t think she could achieve her dream of becoming a nurse. Continue reading

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Important News: Vittana and Kiva Join Forces

Today we are thrilled to announce the launch of an exciting new partnership with Kiva! Beginning March 31st, all Vittana students will be fundraising on Kiva and Vittana will be sporting a brand new look!

Vittana collaborates with over 30 microfinance partners worldwide and continues to innovate to help students graduate to gainful employment. Partnering with Kiva and their large network of passionate lenders will provide an opportunity for our MFI partners to access greater amounts of capital, fostering accelerated growth of our loan programs. Utilizing Kiva’s market-proving capital Vittana will focus on providing expert technical assistance and innovative product development for our partners.

Through March 31st all student profiles on our site will accept donated loans only. This means that students will still receive your funds, but the repayments from these loans will be donated to Vittana to continue student loan program development. Outstanding repayments that are due to you from students you’ve lent to in the past will still accumulate and be added to your Vittana credit until all repayment schedules are complete. The funds in your account and those due to you from repayments will remain there and never be lent or donated without your consent. You may also choose to donate your outstanding repayments and Vittana credit and support our continued mission to graduate a generation beyond poverty. You will always be able to access your account at http://my.vittana.org.

Your support thus far has empowered over 15,000 students in 14 countries to improve their lives–helping to lift up their families, their communities and to graduate beyond poverty. We hope you will continue to support our students’ dreams and remain a part of the Vittana community by joining the Vittana lending team on Kiva.

Although we will no longer be utilizing our P2P lending platform, Vittana still vitally needs your support. To support our operations and scale our programs we ask that you:

Have any questions or concerns? Please check out our recently published FAQ regarding the transition of our P2P platform. You can also contact us directly at questions@vittana.org

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4 Years of Lending: Vittana’s Impact Report

At Vittana we are constantly working to grow and improve our operations. We believe in continually evaluating and assessing our programs to ensure that our loan programs are providing the best support possible for the young adults we serve. As of January 2014, over 20,000 Vittana loans have been disbursed to 15,000 students who are repaying at an impressive 98% rate. Although Vittana prioritizes working in countries where employment is possible and education quality acceptable, students in these countries face many challenges on the road to employment. We have always been committed to testing our mission and hypothesis against on-the-ground reality. In 2012, we conducted a study with 122 graduates in Paraguay. This past year, we completed our most ambitious study: 475 surveys across 6 countries.

The fundamental questions asked: 

Are you employed? If yes, 

  • How long did it take you to find a job?
  • What is your monthly salary?
  • Are you working in your field of study?

We looked at these questions from a variety of angles: by country, by school type (university versus technical), by time elapsed since graduation, etc. to determine what characteristics are most likely to lead to employment. Of our discoveries we found that 85% of survey respondents are employed a year after graduation and 79% of employed respondents are working in their field of study. We found that on average graduates find work 4.9 months after graduation and the average pay increase was 93%.

Download the Full Report

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Title loans in Peru: a “no brainer”

In North America we may take for granted our education system which grants college and university students their degree upon successful completion of the necessary courses.

In Perú it is common that a second step is required before a student is able to receive their official degree commonly referred to as their “titulo” or title. After completing their course class requirements they receive their “bachiller” but they must complete a title course or complete a thesis before they receive their degree or title. A process which commonly takes six months.

This extra step is significant because employers in Perú place a huge amount of weight on the actual degree or title paper. Those students who are able to complete the requirements to obtain their title are rewarded with many more job opportunities and, most importantly, with significantly larger salaries and remuneration.

GianPaul Castañada, a Vittana loan recipient, was fortunate to land a job at a law firm while he completed his law degree. His salary while in school was approximately $350 per month, and rose to $800 per month after he completed his classes and received his bachiller. He will complete his title process this coming May and with his title expects his monthly salary will jump to $1,700 per month or more.

Since his degree Gianpaul has offered to volunteer with Vittana and help other students.

Since his degree Gianpaul has offered to volunteer with Vittana and help other students.

Continue reading

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Education Amidst Uncertainty in Cambodia

The loan market in Cambodia presents many unique challenges that stem from the country’s violent political history. Like much of South East Asia, Cambodia was colonized by European forces and its fight for independence in 1954 left the nation unstable for a decade. The result was a violent communist revolution, the ascension to power of the brutal dictator Pol Pot, and years of genocide. Believing in an extreme agrarian socialism the Pol Pot regime targeted educated and urban Cambodians. Pol Pot eliminated the affluent and educated class to eliminate any potential leaders for an opposition movement.

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Protestors outside Wat Ounalom – the spiritual center of Phnom Penh

Me at a local protest

Police barricade the streets as the crowds of protestors grow

My work in Cambodia presents many challenges unique to this history of social and political strife. Vittana and our MFI partners HKL, KREDIT, Maxima and VisionFund are building the infrastructure that will give poor students access to education loans amidst perpetual political and economic uncertainty. From consulting on marketing strategies and product policies for our microfinance partners to sales and customer service training for their teams of Credit Officers, my fellowship is certainly varied. In a nation where collecting and sharing information is not a priority or common practice, Vittana is working towards establishing a system for collecting and sharing data between our partners, local universities, and HR companies while implementing the most effective strategies for spreading the word about educational loans to the greatest amount of people. Continue reading

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Indigenous Leadership Development in Nepal

My name is Aria, and I am Vittana’s first fellow in Nepal. As part of my fellowship I conducted market research for three financial institutions, wrote grants, and built strategic partnerships with schools and NGOs in Kathmandu and Biratnagar. I had an amazing time connecting with low-income families all over the Nepal, and discussing about what they want and need in a student loan. I met inspiring people doing crucial youth and women’s empowerment work, and heard incredible enthusiasm and hope for Vittana’s loan product. My fellowship was incredible.

Representatives from Laxmi Bank survey employees at a carpet factory.

Representatives from Laxmi Bank survey employees at a carpet factory.

To conduct the market research, I asked over 100 people to fill out a survey. The survey asked questions about respondents’ financial situation and desire to go to school—and it was confusing for most people. Even when I had a Nepali translator from one of our partner institutions, it was difficult to ensure that the survey respondents really understood what they were doing. There is hardly a “survey culture” in Nepal, and most people in our target population have never before been able to take a loan—so had very little knowledge of how the application and repayment process works. Even Nepali businesspeople had trouble explaining.

While in Nepal, I tutored a half American, half Nepali student in math. His cousin Birat grew up in a village outside of Kathmandu, and is now working towards his bachelors at a school in the city. I asked Birat to fill out the survey, and he went above and beyond to help. He became an integral part of the data collection process, helping me translate the survey, explain it to people, and reach a wide range of students and parents. Continue reading

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Top 10 best lending moments at Vittana

Lenders at Vittana have been making loans since April, 2009. Here are our top 10 lending moments of the past four and a half years.

10. That time we paired up with Geekwire.

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Geekwire ran a competition, Geeks Give Back, for Seattle tech companies to see who could lend the most to Vittana students. The winner was announced at the annual Geekwire Gala. The Vittana team came in full force and had a grand time.

9. Zayahuu Tsogtbaatar’s surprise photo.

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Most students take their picture at the MFI office or bring in one taken from home. Not Zayahuu. She submitted a formal photograph in traditional Mongolian clothing and shared a bit of her culture with Vittana and the 11 lenders who supported her dream to teach.

8. This student’s inspiring quote.

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“The best treasure in life is education.”

Continue reading

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Introducing Parvati Patil, RPM for India

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 10.06.54 AMVittana Loans in India have been a goal of ours for several years. Due to dizzying government regulations our progress had been stalled for too long. Today we are ecstatic to announce the addition of Parvati Patil to our team who is joining us as the Regional Program Manager for South Asia. Parvati will be stationed in Bangalore and will be launching our partnerships in India. We are thrilled to have her on board and look forward to seeing Vittana Loans in India in the future.

As an avid blogger herself you’ll be hearing more from Parvati soon,  but here is a bit about her in her own words:

I joined Vittana because its mission really speaks to me. I firmly believe in the power of education. I have seen firsthand in my own family, how access to education can change the trajectory not only for that one person but also the generations following them.

 Lack of access to capital prevents so many poor students from pursing their post-secondary education. At Vittana, we are working towards changing that. As a Regional Program Manager for South Asia I will be working towards jumpstarting the education microloan sector in South Asia. India alone shows tremendous potential with the increasing youth and working age population that will lead to a demographic dividend in a few years. I am excited about what’s ahead. I look forward to connecting, collaborating, and partnering with like-minded people and organizations. 

Parvati and her husband on a training hike near Washington DC in preparation for their summit climb to Mt. Rainier last year.

Parvati and her husband on a training hike near Washington DC in preparation for their summit climb to Mt. Rainier last year.

 

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