After a two-week roadtrip visiting Kiva borrowers throughout Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley and western Kenya's rolling tea hills, it's hard to pick one story or moment that stands out the most. But without a doubt one of the highlights was Penina (pictured below) and her bubbly personality, contagious laughter and resilient character. Her Kiva loan helped her not only increase her sales but hire 1 full time employee and 2 seasonal workers. The journey for Penina and her community hasn't always been easy, but they have persevered.
 

 
Penina has owned a clothing shop for about 8 years and, along with her husband, has raised 3 kids. She started selling clothes through a very small shop, much smaller than the one she rents in Kangundo town, a small town a 2 hour matatu ride east of Nairobi. She was even embarassed to tell me how small it was when she started out. Penina struggled for several years to grow her business and help provide for her family. Like many Kenyans, they also generated some income from the outputs of their small farm. She eventually was able to rent the space she is in now, a shop closer to foot traffic in the middle of town.  

This may seem like a small step, but for Penina it was huge because she's faced a lot of hardships. First, she lives in a rural town that has no running watering and only a couple of boreholes where people can access water. You can imagine the job opportunities in such an underdeveloped area in a country with 40% unemployment rate. In spite of this, she has been able to stay in business and is excited about where she sees her family's future. With her Kiva loan, she was able to purchase more stock and thus boost her sales during the end of year holiday season. This has allowed her to continue paying for her children's school fees, which are a big expense for Kenyans families. Only one in five youths graduate from secondary school.

During my visit to her business and her home, I learned that one of her immediate family members tragically passed away in December. She told me this was one of the most difficult times in her life. She was determined to continue living and working hard to provide for her family throughout this hard time. In fact, she recognized that one of her neighbors was in need and has hired her as a full-time employee. During the busiest time she even needed to hire 2 seasonal workers.  Her decision to embrace her grief and then to focus on others around her (her family and neighbor in need) is trully inspiring to me. 

She plans to one day have the largest retail store in Kangundo so that she can provide a quality education to her children. 
So now what? It's still Monday! How do you make it better?  Empower a Kenyan small-business owner by gving a Kiva loan!  That'll turn your Monday blues into a smile...actually lots of smiles:
 
 
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David was raised in southern California very near to the Mexican border, which allowed him to grow up with an appreciation of multiple cultures and perspectives. Los Angeles is his second home after attending UCLA and working for a stock research company as a consultant. During David’s time at the University of California, Los Angeles, his interest in global affairs, traveling, foreign cultures and international development grew significantly, albeit without clear focus on what to do with that interest. As a consultant, he was able to grow his investing knowledge, become more interested in financial services and innovative technology. David decided to combine his interest in international development and financial services and pursue microfinance. This lead him to diligently study microfinance and volunteer as a Young Ambassador for Opportunity through Opportunity International. David hopes his experience as a Kiva Fellow will be just the beginning of a long career in microfinance.