by Rachel Brooks, KF9, Kenya
Faulu Kenya, where I recently began as a Fellow, has a full-time Kiva Coordinator, Zachary Muriithi. He’s a busy guy. He works long hours at Faulu, manages his several small farms, helps run a home for 24 orphans, and preaches on Sunday. He has old and new friends wherever we go and has become an active user of Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress.
Still, Pastor Zach was excited for our first big task: completing a borrower verification process. We randomly picked ten of Faulu’s Kiva borrowers for a mini-audit and then appeared unannounced at their businesses to confirm their profile details. We really might as well have dropped a bag of marbles onto a map of Nairobi because the ten businesses could not have been farther apart but it was worth it.
The reason I became a lender on Kiva, and then a volunteer editor, and now a Fellow is mostly because I liked each borrower’s story so much. I also thought microfinance had a way of cutting through a lot of difficulties to make a way where there is a will. So even trudging through Nairobi’s endless dust, I so enjoyed meeting each of these borrowers and hearing their stories in person. I’d feared that Zach and I would seem a bit like the secret police as we asked to confirm people’s identities and have a look-see at their loan booklets but instead we kept getting offered Fanta.
We spent three days on foot, matatu, and bodaboda, to reach all but our last borrower. Dominic Mutunga had used his fourth and most recent loan to purchase a motorbike to expand his taxi service in the Masai Village area of Nairobi. When we tried to visit him we learned that he’d been in an accident in Machokos (about an hour outside of town) and had badly broken his hand. So to Machokos Hospital we went!
It might seem a little strange that someone would welcome a visit from their microfinance institution, including a stranger from Kiva, after surgery. But Dominic was very heartened to see Pastor Zach, who is, of course, an old friend as well as his original loan officer. Most Faulu borrowers also just feel that strongly about their loans. He told us that his bike was not damaged beyond repair but that he may, unfortunately, face a long recovery. Slim resources at the hospital delayed his surgery for over a week and that caused complications. Thankfully, his wife is managing to support the family of five through a food kiosk created through earlier loans.
Incidentally, on the way from Faulu’s branch office in Machakos to the hospital, we were convinced to stop and see the only local attraction. Folks insisted that there is a curve in the road where cars drive themselves uphill while in neutral, and so it did! Apparently water will also roll uphill. I found the stretch in the road to be only slightly uphill. Pastor Zach felt the demonstration bordered on miraculous. You can judge for yourself.'