By Kiva Fellows | KF19 | All Over the World

With January 2013 coming to an end, KF19 fellows are either continuing on with KF20 or returning home to various responsibilities and careers. Regardless of the next adventure or destination, one thing is common among all: KF19 fellows have been permanently changed by their placements.

What began as a joint blog post about any person, place, or event during the course of the fellowship that affected our lives, of itself turned into simply the one person who left the most impact. Afterall, Kiva’s mission is to alleviate poverty through connecting people. The fellows of KF19 have witnessed this connection over the course of the last three to four months, and nothing could have prepared us for meeting the people who would touch our lives in various ways.

KF19 presents to you Kiva One, a small collection of stories about human connections, hope, and inspiration.

 

Salum from Tanzania
Marion Walls | Tujijenge and Barefoot Power | Tanzania

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I remember so clearly the day I met Salum: it’s the day I wanted to cry. I was at a Tujijenge borrower group meeting, asking questions to probe understanding of Kiva. Salum stepped forward with a smile. He said he knew his photo was widely seen, and people all over the world were now supporting his fruit-selling business. “Would you like to see it?” he invited. So we walked to the market and Salum showed me his stall. My heart sank as I counted the meager stock: 4 pineapples, 4 bunches of bananas, 5 papaya, 3 coconuts, perhaps 12 passion fruit… But Salum had a ready smile for me, and thanked me cheerfully for stopping by.

That evening I munched the bananas I’d purchased and wondered at how positive Salum had been. I just couldn’t help worrying about him: “How can he possibly make a living, especially with a dozen stalls selling the same fruit too?” I put the question to my Tujijenge officemate and heard, “It’s very hard. And if he has children… That’s why you have to tell our borrowers’ stories, Marion, so we can get more money to make more loans!” (Great – no pressure!)

So next time I see a loan on Kiva: “Salum, in his early 30’s, has children. He sells fruit in the market and is able to make a small monthly profit…” I’ll know exactly what “a small profit” looks like. And I’ll read between the lines to understand what is riding on his loan. And I’ll hope against hope that some day I see a loan for a fruit seller named Salum whose children go to school – because he’s now making “a medium profit”!

Marta from Guatemala
Gareth Leonard | Roaming | Guatemala

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Marta is a farmer in the Sololá region of Guatemala. Her job depends on the weather and her income depends on the market, but most importantly, her children depend on her.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over 50 borrowers as a Kiva Fellow and I’ve admired each and every one of them through the personal stories they’ve shared with me.

It was Marta, however, that left the biggest imprint on my time here in Guatemala.

It wasn’t where she lived or what she was doing, but rather, the perspective that she had towards Kiva, her life’s work and the future of her family.

In my experience, many farming families use Kiva loans to purchase harvesting essentials and then use the profits from their crops to re-invest in more resources and land for their families to maintain.

Marta’s mindset was different. She believed that the Kiva loan provides her the opportunity to fund her children’s education. She understood that the sustainability of her family’s social and economic well-being comes from the ability of her three children to decide their own career path.

Unfortunately, this is a luxury that you don’t see very often in this part of the world and that’s why Marta was so special to me.

She wants to provide others with a platform to succeed, which is exactly why I became a Kiva Fellow.

Mama Aly Laye from Senegal
Anna Forsberg | UIMCEC | Senegal

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I would typically acknowledge the clients stopping by whichever branch I was working at with a head nod and soft smile, but there was something different about Mame Aly Laye. He had an anchoring presence and glow that pulled me in.

Mame was an energetic and articulate conversationalist who was eager to share his story with me. Mame took out his first loan three years ago, at which point his business was floundering. He used the funds from his first loan to purchase grain to sell in the city and consequently grow his business; his second loan was used to invest in durable products for his “garbage pick-up” business, a start-up on the side. Mame now employs three workers, with high hopes to increase this number to six with his next loan.

In addition to his businesses, Mame also runs a local branch of “ASC,” an association which sponsors sports events for their community’s youth. “If I want to do good, the change has to start where I know what’s best for whom, and from there I can navigate how we can best accomplish our mutual end goals,” Mame explained, as he juggled client calls and client visits with my presence.

Mame is a fervent believer that we must all be teachers in life, a talk he undoubtedly walks. I join many others in his community in hoping that his example spawns many followers.

Joseph from Kenya
Shaherose Jamal | SanergyKiva Zip | Kenya

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The first Kiva borrower you meet as a fellow will always be at the forefront of your fellowship. Joseph‘s loan of 75 dollars would change a school. He wanted to add coloured poster board and build a roof for his preschool. The small space in Kibera hosts over 60 children who arrive to school each day, bursting at the seams with curiosity and energy. Kibera, a densely populated slum where half the residents are children, lacks an adequate water supply, basic sanitation services and educational facilities.

I thought Joseph’s story should be shared with readers. His parents separated at a young age and his mother was unable to send him to school. Consequently, he was forced to drop out at class 3. Later, he gained experience at a pre-school working as a cook and a caretaker, an experience which led him to open his own pre-school.

He remembers his mother working hard to give him the best she could. In turn, he wants to provide children with education at an affordable price and hopes to expand the pre-school to a full fledged primary school.

Dinara from Krygyzstan
Abhishesh Adhikari | Bai Tushum & Partners | Kyrgyzstan

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In 2010, there were violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the southern region of Kyrgyzstan. Kiva partnered with Bai Tushum to come up with a special “Vulnerable Population” Loan Product with lower interest rates to help people affected by this violence. During my travels around Kyrgyzstan, I was able to visit Osh, which was a city that was majorly affected. There I met Dinara, who owns a clothing store for women in the central city market.

Dinara buys clothes from wholesale markets in different parts of the country, and sells them to individuals in Osh. One of the reasons she is successful in her business is because of her expert ability to understand what designs of clothes are desired by the public at any given time. Like so many other businesses, her store was looted and burned down during the violence in 2010 and she needed to start all over again. Using Kiva’s “Vulnerable Population” Loans, she was able to buy a new container, which now acts as her store. She is hoping to take out another loan to buy a bigger container as her business has prospered and expanded over the last year.

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The scale of violence in Osh was actually much bigger than I had originally thought. Looking at the city from a hilltop, I could see lots and lots of houses with new tin roofs. All of those houses and stores were burned down during the violence. I was extremely impressed by the resiliency of people like Dinara, who were able to rebuild their businesses relatively quickly even after such terrible violence. However, there are still a lot of people affected by the violence who need help, and there is no doubt that Kiva’s loans will play an important role in that process.

Sir Gadwin Handumon from The Philippines
Keith Baillie | Roaming | Philippines

Sir Gadwin carving a lechon (roasted pig) at the PMPC 20th Anniversary / Christmas Party

Sir Gadwin carving a lechon (roasted pig) at the PMPC 20th Anniversary / Christmas Party

During my fellowship in Mindanao, I was impressed by the visionary leadership of Sir Gadwin Handumon (all elders here are referred to as Sir or Maam). Sir Gadwin is the General Manager of Paglaum Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PMPC), headquartered in Plaridel.

Under his leadership, PMPC has become very progressive, for example opening a grain center to mill and market rice and a hotel to develop local tourism. They offer leading-edge loan products, for example for solar panels in areas without electricity and integrated (multi-commodity) agriculture with marketing assistance. They reach out to serve the neglected, like the disabled and indigenous people. PMPC offers very competitive salaries and benefits that attract excellent, committed staff.

Sir Gadwin is also chairman of the Mindanao-based MASS-SPECC Cooperative Development Center, the biggest regional cooperative federation in the Philippines, and is a frequent speaker at development conferences, at home and abroad. He recently gained an MS in International Community Development by distance study from an American university.

He is quite a globetrotter, attending various micro-financing conventions and accompanying his wife (the sole neurologist in northern Mindanao) to international conferences, and well connected – his sister-in-law is the Mayor of Plaridel.
The Paglaum staff treats him with great reverence, but he is quite unassuming and sociable. I have every confidence that, under his leadership, Paglaum MPC will continue to grow and push the envelope in serving the under-served.

Khaled from Jordan
Taline Khansa | Tamweelcom | Jordan

Through meeting Kiva borrowers in Jordan, I learned that the profiles listed on Kiva barely scratch the surface of the borrowers’ lives. There are always so many more details to each borrower’s life that are not recorded. Like many fellows, I was anxiously waiting for the first few borrower visits to really see for myself how microfinance helps low-income communities. And when I met that borrower, it was one of the most emotional moments during my placement.

Khaled is a retired man running a small convenience store out of a mini-van and harvesting guavas from his small grove during their season. What his profile did not say is that he had lost his son less than a year ago and is supporting his daughter-in-law and grandchildren – as well as his own daughter – on his limited income. I met his entire family on that visit. Unfortunately I did not take a picture with them. I only took a picture of his hometown.

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I recall thinking that Khaled was around my dad’s age. He could be someone from my family. At that point I was so overwhelmed by his story that I just wanted to hug him! But it’s not the hardship that made me emotional; it’s his ability to smile and radiate with hope and gratitude regardless of what hurdles life had thrown.

These seven stories are only a small sample of the faces, resilience, and ambitions of Kiva borrowers.

What does it take to change the world and help low-income populations around the world? A dose of empathy and maybe, just maybe, a small loan to an aspiring entrepreneur, a small business owner, a farmer, an educator, or a person with the power to create change in his or her life if only given the opportunity.

Make this world an even smaller place by supporting and connecting with a Kiva Borrower today.


Comments

I loved this post! One of my all time favs. You transported me to all of these places and gave me depth and color that can not be effectively expressed in a borrower profile. Thank you all for your inspiring work, and for inspiring me to do more!

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Taline grew up in Beirut, Lebanon during the civil war. At an early age, she became involved with a nonprofit peace education organization called Children's International Summer Villages (CISV) which has introduced her to some of her best friends around the world. Her passion for cultures, travel, and peace promotion stemmed from those experiences, and she simultaneously became fascinated with the science behind airplanes and flight. At the age of 17, she moved to Los Angeles to study Aerospace Engineering and spent six years working in the industry. While she gained professional experience in manufacturing and engineering, she continued to follow global affairs and became active in CISV's programs again. Growing more aware of the imperative need for social impact initiatives worldwide, she decided to switch to a career that allows her to apply her skills in solving humanitarian based problems. Her first experience will take her back to the Middle East as a Kiva Fellow in Jordan where she hopes to make a tangible positive impact in the local community. She is ecstatic to continue her fellowship in Lebanon and Sierra Leone!