By Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

When I boarded a plane to Mali last week, I was not exactly enthusiastic. One reason may have been the unpleasant 2 AM take-off from Kigali, another the recent Al-Qaida kidnappings in the North, which meant that all relevant tourist spots were off limits. And six months into my career as a Kiva fellow, a routine task such as a borrower visit was not enough to get me excited.

I was in for a surprise.

The borrowers of Kiva’s Malian field partner Soro Yiriwaso and their incredible hospitality, made my trip unforgettable. I came to check borrowers’ identities and look at loan papers. I left with a mountain of presents, a full stomach and a serious caffeine high after the countless cups of sweat tea offered to me everywhere I went.

But I was most excited about finally being in a country where people love to be photographed. Below are my favorite shots from my meetings with Malian borrowers.

If you are as mesmerized by Mali as I was, also check out Mali in Color (Part 2): Impressions from the Road.

Dikel and one of the fish she purchased with her loan

Benkan Group with the smoked and fresh fish they bought to sell

Benkadi Group in front of one of the women's homes

Yaya in his pharmacy where he offers traditional Chinese medicine and treatments

Mariam, the president of Benkadi Association, a group of rice and peanut farmers

Some other members of Benkadi Association, a group of rice and peanut farmers

Assitan bought a sack of rice to use in her restaurant

Yeh, a member of Benkola Association, another group of rice and peanut farmers

Guests are welcomed with song and dance

The members of Benkola Association, a group of rice and peanut farmers, posing in the village square

Rokia and the other members of Tiessiri Group, who bought jewelry to sell

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Kathrin Gerner took a little detour from her fellowship with Amasezerano Community Banking (ACB) and Vision Finance Company (VFC) in Kigali, Rwanda, to conduct a borrower verification for Soro Yiriwaso in Mali. Support borrowers in Mali by lending to one of Soro Yiriwaso’s clients.

Previous posts by Kathrin Gerner:
Paving the Way to the Future (Part 1): Bad Roads, Transportation Costs and Microfinance in Togo
Paving the Way to the Future (Part 2): Road Construction and Its Effects on Microfinance in Togo
Isabukuru Nziza, ACB! A Kiva Field Partner in Rwanda Celebrates Its Fifth Anniversary
Say a Little Prayer for the Portfolio: 5 Questions about Christian Microfinance in Rwanda


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As the Field Support Specialist for Francophone Africa, Kathrin works with Kiva partners to make sure they get the most out of working with Kiva, and to ensure that Kiva responds effectively to partners' changing needs. Kathrin previously served as a Kiva Fellow Togo and Rwanda and holds a B.S. in International Trade & Finance. After working at Deloitte as a Senior Consultant for four years, she decided to leave the corporate world to spend a year exploring several countries in East Asia and Africa. Her journey has now led her to Kigali, Rwanda, where she is based when she is not visiting Kiva partners in Francophone Africa. Kathrin is fluent in German and French and she is currently working on her Kinyarwanda.
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