Last week I had my first trip to the field. I traveled with Grace, the Kiva Coordinator here at Pearl Microfinance, to two branches in western Uganda, Lugazi and Jinja. Lugazi is about 2 hours away from the office and Jinja is about 40 minutes down the road and across the Nile from Lugazi.

The area between Kampala and these two areas looks shockingly like New England. Having spent many of my summers driving through the wooded areas of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, I found myself drifting back to blueberry pancakes for breakfast as I sat sweating from the heat and close proximity to other passengers on our crowded bus.

on our way to Jinja

All reference to similarities between what I would expect to find at a loan disbursement in New England and a loan disbursement in Uganda are found above.

When I got off the back of the motorcycle that was carrying me to visit one of the borrower groups, I was left on the side of a road with no formal buildings in sight. There were cows grazing across the road, children playing in a field in front of me, a youth group playing soccer in the same field, and under a mango tree all the way across the field sat Omunamku Khama Group. The group had come together to sign their names (stamp their thumbprints), exchange pleasantries, receive their cash loans, and then head back to work to grow their businesses.

Omunaku Khama Group

The credit officer in this area, Carol, told me that two of members, who came to the meeting laughing and clearly full of jokes, always “abuse her.” (This is a way of saying that they tease her.) They tell her “you may have gone to school, but we have more businesses than you.” Carol, who has worked with Pearl for over 10 years, seemed delighted that these women took such pride in their accomplishments.

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Just a Note:

Something I had not fully realized about group loans, at least at Pearl Microfinance, is that the members do put down security that guarantees their repayment. Members pledge things like their radios, furniture, goats, bicycles, and cows. For some reason the way that microfinance group loans had been explained to me, I assumed that borrowers pledged their reputation rather than their material possessions.

Help fund loans for hardworking borrowers like these ones on the kiva website!

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