By Julia Kurnia, Director Zidisha
Our longest serving volunteer staff member, Kara Kaminski, began an exciting new job this month: designing and leading a massive poverty intervention project for Dare to Dream, a leader in developing promising technology-based financial products for low-income communities.
Kara began volunteering with Zidisha in 2011, before we had raised our first $100,000. Though she was working at a paid job while completing a graduate degree, she gave generously of her time and energy, taking responsibility for preparing loan disbursements and entering repayments in our website each day. She also took the initiative to design quarterly performance reports, which allowed us to track our growth and portfolio quality statistics over time.
Through her work with Zidisha Kara came into contact with Seva Mandir, a solid community development NGO in India, which had hosted my first internship in a developing country many years ago. Over the summer of 2012 Kara joined Seva Mandir in executing a vast study aimed at improving the seasonal targeting of food aid in famine-prone areas, teaching herself Hindi to facilitate household interviews.
Despite a rigorous travel schedule and many late nights analyzing data, Kara continued her Zidisha responsibilities while in India. Day in and day out, loan disbursements were sent and repayments recorded in our website with unfailing accuracy.
Upon her return to the US, Kara leveraged her rapidly growing expertise in household interview and statistical analysis to design an impact evaluation study for Zidisha’s Kenya program. This project became the subject of her graduate thesis, and Kara continues to supervise it to completion.
I’ve always been amazed by Kara’s extraordinary dedication and generosity. She has spent her graduate-school years building a level of analytical skills that few others possess, and giving freely of that expertise to (as she puts it) “tackling the world’s poverty barriers one project at a time.”
I don’t know where exactly Kara’s career will take her, but I am sure she will continue to leave an oversized mark on the world, and on the communities that benefit from her work.