By Nancy Tuller, KF8, Ghana
Fuseina is the kind of person that you want in your life. She is kind, gracious, friendly, confident, warm, generous in spirit and loving, all at the same time. Our short visit together reminded me of the reason I am here, and the reason I love this work (if you can call it that!), and the reason I so admire what Kiva is facilitating. This is human connection at its finest.
This connection is what drew me to microfinance 15 years ago. When Kiva came up with a way to personalize that connection even further with their online lending to specific individuals back in 2005, I knew they had hit upon a recipe for success. It is this personal, intimate connection between individuals—knowing that your loan is going to Gifty Mensah in Senegal, whose face you know, and whose need to buy a new oven for her baking business is so real—which draws increasing numbers of people who may have never considered giving to other organizations, to begin a sustained program of lending and re-lending. I told several of my mail clients (I am a letter carrier at home in California) about Kiva and several of them have loaned to clients here in Ghana. I visited two of those clients last week, and we had a wonderful connection. I”ve visited with clients and their families in their homes and just the other day made a lunch date with another client’s wife! I have friends who have emailed me wanting to lend to clients, I have started three lending groups so far, with many joiners who have expressed their desire to make that connection with a particular client. I have made many intimate connections with Kiva loan clients, which has been the most rewarding aspect of my Kiva Fellowship. My photos and memories are my own proof of that connection. Clients have, time and again, expressed their deep gratitude to their lenders, and I have even seen a woman break down in tears when expressing that gratitude and wonder that someone she doesn’t even know would give her such help through a loan. This is what connections are all about: recognizing that we are one family interconnected through our shared humanity and our shared destiny.
Fuseina, her husband and their two young children live with Fuseina’s brother-in-law and family. At the present time, Fuseina’s husband is an unemployed accountant looking for work, so Fuseina’s income is crucial to keeping the children in school. Fuseina sells beans, yams and groundnuts (peanuts) in her local market. Her first loan from Christian Rural Aid Network in Ghana allowed her to increase her inventory so that she can realize more in profits. Before this loan, Fuseina made just five to ten cedis a week. Now she has at least doubled that income to about 20 cedis per week through the grace of Kiva lender’s generosity. She uses the profits to help with household expenses, pay school fees, and make her loan payments. She even saves three cedis a week! In her soft voice and with a kind smile on her face, Fuseina told me how grateful she is to those who have lent to her, and how this loan has given her hope for the future.
How lucky I am to be here, hearing stories like Fuseina’s, and seeing first-hand how a small loan can work positive changes in people’s lives. Sometimes those changes are dramatic and powerful…sometimes they are barely perceptible, which is closer to the truth in Fuseina’s case. So why would I choose to tell you about Fuseina? It is because of that human connection we shared. Our time together was full of intimacy through a shared understanding of what it is to be human, which transcends words and language barriers, as well as the vast differences in the circumstances of our lives. The truth is that I could share with you more dramatic stories of borrowers, but they are fewer in number, and it is also important to recognize that some stories aren’t as dramatic in the telling, but these small loans truly do make an important difference in the borrower’s life. Each story is equally valuable in the quest of alleviating poverty in the world. Small increments of positive change are giving hope, building confidence, and motivating borrowers like Fuseina to be the drivers of their own entrepreneurial success.
I know that Fuseina’s lenders probably wish that they could meet her and see for themselves if their loan has made a difference in her life, or the lives of her family. I am here to sahre that experience with you and to tell you that I have had this rewarding pleasure and deep honor. Fuseina and her family are moving slowly, but with increasing hope and dignity, on the road out of poverty and into a better future. Thanks to all Kiva lenders for your part in reaching out to deserving borrowers like Fuseina. Their journey on that road is not only possible, but also smoother, because you are paving it!/>