I think that most Kiva Fellows will agree that anytime we meet with Kiva Entrepreneurs we are confronted with a gauntlet of emotions from happy to sad, from inspired to depressed, from energized to drained. While for the most part, for me anyway, the experience tilts towards the positive side of things you never know who or what you are going to run into when you hop on the back of your credit officer’s moto.
I spent the beginning part of this week meeting with twenty-five Kiva Entrepreneurs and felt practically every emotion I can think of. While my first idea for this post was to tell you how I felt meeting these people I decided that each one of these experiences could mean something totally different to every person. I am going to try to introduce you to three of the individuals I visited with via a brief intro and a short video so you can meet them with as little filtering and subjectivity as possible.
In almost every video I ask them if they have any hopes or dreams for the their family’s future. Most of the answers are fairly ordinary; increase my sales, change business, fix or build a new home, but even these answers represent a desire to overcome significant obstacles to better the lives of them and their children.
Meet Ny Sokythea:
Ny Sokuthea and her husband expanded their fish selling business with their Kiva loan. With the money from the loan Ny Sokuthea went to several local fishermen and gave them money up front in return for the promise that they would sell exclusively to her and at a price they determined in advance. This brilliant piece of negotiating has helped her stabilize her costs while ensuring that she has a product to take to the market everyday. After only a few weeks she was able to earn about $5 in extra profit per day. They also farm a small plot of rice for about 6 months out of the year for extra income. Ny and her husband have three children, all daughters, ages five, thirteen and fifteen. They all attend school and Ny says that they all study both Khmer and English.
In the video you can see she is a very funny and playful person, when I asked her about how she would want to grow her business she told me that she wanted a car so she could fill it with fish to take to the market, a joke, maybe. When I asked her about her dreams about her future she told me with a mischievous smile on her face that she wanted to be a “Ms. Excellency” or a high official in the national government.
Meet Lia Lun:
When I went to visit Lia Lun I was greeted with extreme hospitality despite very difficult circumstances for her. The night before I came to her house her 40-year-old next-door neighbor had passed away in his sleep and she was busy making preparations for his funeral. When I offered to come back another day she flatly refused and pulled up a chair and table for us to sit at. While what I was there for was of much less importance than what was going on around me I felt it would be rude to not accept her hospitality and so we sat and spoke for a few minutes.
Both Lia and her husband have been creating decorative Khmer wood pieces since the early eighties (see video for example of their work). They have three children, two sons and one daughter. They have two grandchildren as well with three more on the way as their daughter in law is expecting triplets next month.
As I sat and spoke with Lia, her husband and other men from the neighborhood were building the coffin only a few yards away while her neighbor lay on a table under a tree just beyond them. The banging you hear in the background of the video was all of this going on.
Meet Rom Chhoeuy:
Rom Chhoeuy has been selling fish and traditional fish paste for about seven years. Her normal routine is to go to the local fishermen every morning and buy some of their catch and take her purchase to the local market to resell. She makes a good living of $7 a day and is very happy with how things are going.
Her husband has been repairing machinery for two years and makes about $5 a day. Before he had his current job he was a moto taxi driver for six years. They have two children, one son aged 6 and one daughter aged 8. Both of her children attend the local school.
The entire time I was completing the interview her kids were waving and smiling at me. See the video of my final question to see what I mean.
Meeting each one of these women and hearing about how they were using their loans was an amazing experience and I hope I was able to share that in some small way.
Drew Loizeaux is currently serving as a Kiva Fellow with Hattha Kaksekar Limited (HKL) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.