Natalie Sherman | KF17 | Cameroon
It’s been said, countless times, that one of the most rewarding experiences for us Kiva Fellows (as you might imagine) is meeting borrowers- those inspirational men and women who work hard, every day, to make a better life for themselves and their families. To know this satisfaction is something I certainly expected before my placement here in Cameroon. One thing I didn’t expect, however, was the pleasure and understanding I would gain from getting to know the staff of ACEP Cameroun- the partner MFI with whom I’ve been working these past four months. As I say my final goodbyes and prepare to pass the proverbial torch to the next Fellow working with ACEP, it’s pretty much impossible not to reflect on the good times that we’ve shared together, both in and outside of the office. From walking in the very first day, nervous and unsure, to watching ACEP’s inaugural borrowers go live on the Kiva website, to receiving their initial repayments- it’s been a journey of both intense work and intense…. celebrating!
Kiva’s field partners, currently totaling 147 across 59 countries, serve as a critical element in achieving the ultimate mission of connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty. Without these field partner organizations, operating in so many unique economic and cultural contexts would be pretty darn difficult. And what is an organization, really, but if not a collection of human capital? Well, the ladies and gentlemen of ACEP are certainly worth bragging about, if you ask me, and will be a vital driver of the Kiva borrower base in all parts of Cameroon. After spending four months with this team, I’ve realized that they are not only dedicated to their work but in many cases, to their continued professional development as well. From executive team member to Internal Controller to Loan Officer, several employees are enrolled in continuing education courses, which they attend at least two or three times a week, after full days of work, followed by long journeys across the city to their respective homes. Such round-the-clock commitment and ambition seem particularly difficult in a culture where (to be generalizing) the pace of work and life is quite slow and transportation is challenging.
One result of all of this hard work, though, is that folks really know how to appreciate the precious “down time” they do have. Sports, food, travel… all of the pleasures that we Westerners enjoy are just as sought after (if not more?) here in Cameroon. I’ve collected a few short clips of adventures had outside the office with the ACEP team; check out this video showing some of our time together, celebrating the local community that ACEP undoubtedly works hard to support!