As I approach the matatu stage I feel a bout of irritation. Completely empty. I am the first passenger to arrive, which undoubtedly means waiting for an indefinite amount of time until it is full and ready to head out. I quickly text the Kiva borrower I am to visit to tell her I may be late. Having been in this situation many times before, she messages me back with an understanding, “Don’t worry, you still come!” I get in, pick the best seat, buy a few snacks... Continue Reading >>
On a recent trip out of Nairobi, we arrived in Eldama Ravine, a small town of around 15,000 people in Kenya's Rift Valley Province. On our arrival we were greeted by Benson, the local loan officer for SMEP Microfinance Bank, who proudly walked us down Eldama Ravine's main street, into a building containing a general store and an education center, and up two flights of stairs to a small office overlooking the busy local market. That morning Benson was just beginning his second day in SMEP's newest branch, and despite a lack of electricity and furniture, he was proud to finally have a... Continue Reading >>
Traditionally Kenyan women have not been in the business of beekeeping. Beehives were historically kept very high in trees requiring the beekeeper to undertake a somewhat dangerous climb in order to service or retrieve the hive. Culturally, this was not considered an activity fit for Kenyan women. Now, with modern beekeeping techniques and tools, colonized hives can be managed from the ground. For the first half of my Kiva fellowship I was placed with Honey Care Africa, an organization that gives Kiva loans to farmers for beehives and apiary materials. I attended a Honey Care “Kiva meeting... Continue Reading >>
While working on Kiva Zip operations in Kenya, I engage with Trustees (the volunteer backbone of the Kiva Zip model) every day, hearing their stories, experiences, issues, and very often-getting humble invitations to visit their borrowers. These visits are one of my favorite parts of my fellowship. This is when I get to see the impact of the Kiva Zip model on the ground. Recently, I got to visit Kone Mory who is from Côte d’Ivoire, a country in west Africa. Kone is a designer, tailor, father... Continue Reading >>
My Kiva Fellowship recently led me on a 930km trip through Western Uganda, where I visited a variety of borrowers living in rural areas. Although the journey was long and full of dust, sweat and bumpy roads, there were also many laughs, delicious foods and wonderful people along the way. The purpose of this adventure was to meet with eight borrowers scattered around the countryside so that I could listen to their stories and verify that the information posted on Kiva was accurate. I’m pleased to report that the trip was successful on all counts! The most touching moment of each visit... Continue Reading >>
It was 8 in the morning; I was sitting in front of a group of five staff members from MicroKing’s Gokwe branch, about to start my Kiva training. Gokwe is a small town in a rural area of Zimbabwe. It takes a four-hour bus ride and a two-hour car ride (or a Kombi ride - tiny local buses that lengthen the journey by another 2 hours), which may be why they have never had a Kiva Fellow visit before.
Until that day, I had visited three rather larg and mature branches, and had given refresher trainings to branch staff on the Kiva process. My goal was to reiterate the...Continue Reading >>
Last week I travelled to Nakuru, a town to the northwest of Nairobi in Kenya's Rift Valley Province, about three hours away by matatu. Matatus are the predominant mode of transport in Kenya and while they lack a few comforts - leg room, air conditioning, suspension, and any limit on the number of people that will attempt to fit inside one simultaneously - they have the benefits of being cheap, efficient and reliable, and handle Kenya's potholed roads reasonably well. Continue Reading >>