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You're going where?

Kyrgyzstan, May 19, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    Elena Salivieva — who designs, produces and sells handcrafted souvenirs in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, where an unemployment rate of nearly 11 percent means poverty for many people — received a loan from Kompanion, a Mercy Corps-founded financial affiliate that grants microloans to help Kyrgyz families. Photo: Mercy Corps

A couple of weeks ago, I began informing my friends and family that I will be spending this summer interning out of Mercy Corps’ Kyrgyzstan office. Apart from the "Borat" jokes (wrong country, folks), general responses have included:

“You’re going where?”
“Are you making that place up?”
“Isn’t that the place that’s been in the news lately?”

Answer key: Kyrgyzstan. No. Yes.

I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity. It is Mercy Corps’ belief that times of transition can facilitate important shifts, allowing for the implementation of lasting, positive change that would not otherwise be feasible.

I will have the pleasure of learning about and contributing to the programs and services of Kompanion, a microfinance company founded by Mercy Corps. Kompanion defines itself as a community development financial institution that seeks to combine conservation and development goals. It is the second largest financial institution in Kyrgyzstan, as measured by the number of customers.

I’m eager to explore adaptive community-led and market-driven activities that meet the needs of participants in this rapidly fluctuating economy and political climate. And — on a selfish level — I can’t wait to learn more about the culture and customs of Kyrgyzstan. I have no doubt this will be an amazing experience, although I’m sure I won’t escape my share of embarrassing cultural faux pas.

I look forward to sharing my experience over the next three months, but for now it’s back to my preparation checklist...

More to come!