I know when I first found out I was being placed in Albania I was not sure what to think. I knew Albania is being considered for candidate status for the European Union, and my guidebook told me there is an Albanian Riveria so naturally I thought does microfinance and kiva capital really have a place here? I will confess here among friends, I was even a little disappointed! I was getting ready to completely change my life to work towards the alleviation of poverty, and to me on first glance eastern europe seemed like it was doing just fine.
When I met Hamit, he was in the process of building his new house financed by a kiva loan but still currently sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a shack made of plastic nailed with thin plywood and covered with metal sheet that does not have water, electricity or a toilet. He is afraid to move into his partially completed new house with the rest of his family as it is further away from the barn where his pigs live and he is afraid someone will steal the piglets.
Last year Hamit suffered a very large setback in his business, which caused a delay in the construction of his house, when 60 of his pigs passed away unexpectedly. He had gotten them vaccinated and it turned out the vaccine the vet gave them was bad which caused his entire crop of piglets for the year to pass away so he had to start again this year from scratch. Unlike in the developed world where Hamit would most likely sue the veterinarian and have a legal recourse, in Albania without the resources to fight this injustice, Hamit and his wife just had to start over. As a father of seven and grandfather of more, there is simply too much work to be done to look back and Hamit told me he just hopes for better for this year.
Hamit and his family are more intimately familiar with hardship and suffering than most people in the developed world will ever be including what they faced several years ago when their grown up daughter pass away due to a an illness brought on by poor living conditions. However, the incredible thing is they haven't lost hope at all and if anything are more excited by the possibilities of the future than anyone I have met in a long time. They are anxiously planning the next phase of the home building the sale of this latest group of piglets.
When I first moved here and was talking to new friends about my job and the topic of lending money to the Roma population came up; the overwhelming consensus was that the Roma would never pay back their loans. Thanks to the hard work of Hamit and others like him, I am able to smile and tell their incredible story of perseverance and commitment to their businesses and their familes - a story that is proving that people who discriminate aganist someone based on their ethnicity are dead wrong.