Call me a skeptic, but I’m generally not one for clichés. You know how sometimes you read about situations where even though people don’t speak a common language, yet somehow, everyone understands each other? That’s not exactly my experience in Senegal. While the official language here is French, which I speak passably, the more common language is Wolof, which is spoken by the Wolof people and increasingly, almost everyone else in Senegal, though depending on where people are from, they may speak one of a dozen other languages on a regular basis. I spend a lot of my time confused....Continue Reading >>
Stories tagged with Africa
“Be late, but get there”
This sticker, prominently displayed on the dashboard of the Mombasa bus, did not inspire much confidence that we would reach our destination in a timely manner, but it at least reassured my safety a bit more than another common sticker – “drive it like you stole it.”
Occasional Frequent maniacal driving aside, you are also most likely already aware of the fact that things in East Africa rarely operate in a way that someone from the United States (my home country) might call prompt....Continue Reading >>
I’ve always been curious about what happens when microfinance clients open businesses in places where there is very little capital. Many operate small shops of household necessities but the placement of such stores is generally based more on proximity to home than a strategic evaluation of which part of town is most profitable. So how do they cope if their customers can’t afford to buy anything? Last week, I got my answer: credit.Continue Reading >>
It shattered my worldview, changed my perspective on life. It nearly undid me. I was at times stupefied by heat and pollution, tongue-tied by the language barrier, unable to process basic thoughts, uncomfortable from stomach ailments, so overwhelmed by poverty that I could not imagine how to improve the quality of life. But I was also fascinated by the many cultures, bonding with friends of every nationality, living each day full of adventure as it were my last, traveling, collapsing into...Continue Reading >>
Not every day as a Kiva Fellow is a good one. There are days when I wait for seven hours for a credit officer to be available to take me to the field to collect journal updates for only two clients. There are hours of intermittent internet in which I am able to load less than one page. There are the clients I meet about whom I would be inspired except that after doing the math I’m not convinced they’ve found a way to run their businesses with a net profit. Luckily, after more than 7 months of victories and setbacks, I think I’m in the black.
Small moments compensate for...Continue Reading >>
Hello from Bamenda!!!
After about a two day transit adventure (NY to Paris (7hr), Paris to Douala (7hr), Douala to Bamenda (8 hr mini bus)), I arrived in Bamenda on Valentine’s Day, a day I thought I could avoid, but was proven incorrect! I am working with GHAPE (Grounded & Holistic Approach for People’s Empowerment) and everyone in the office is incredibly helpful and great to talk with. However, while my time in Cameroon has been positive, I have hit a major roadblock: I brought my Macintosh with me abroad and the software for accessing the internet here is for...Continue Reading >>
After years of international travel riddled with complications, I think that I have just experienced my most dramatic journey yet. About two weeks ago, I left Boston to travel to work with Pearl Microfinance in Kampala, Uganda. I had planned to land in Nairobi on Tuesday and then spend three days in Nairobi before traveling to Kampala Friday evening.
All went as planned. As I have lived in Nairobi before, my time there was spent visiting old friends and meeting all the new babies! Despite my happy time in Nairobi, as I headed to the airport Friday evening I was thrilled to...Continue Reading >>
My name is Liz O’Donnell and I’m one of the new Kiva Fellows. I’m currently working with Caurie Microfinance based in Thiès, Senegal, about an hour and a half east of Dakar (which unlike Bamenda, Cameroon, is really easy to get to from the US – a seven hour nonstop flight from your choice of New York, DC, or Atlanta).
I arrived in Senegal recently and while I have yet to go out into the field to meet Caurie clients, I wanted to share with you a video that I found helpful while trying to understand microfinance in...Continue Reading >>
The word “profit” does not translate easily into foreign languages. I’ve now tried to convey the idea both in Swahili and in Kinyarwanda and I often come up with nothing more than blank stares or long pauses. The difficulty lies in what “profit” includes (or doesn’t). A client may answer my question as to what their monthly profit is with a confident declaration of “30,000 Francs”, but when I ask what she uses the profit for, she answers that she pays the rent and pays off her loan. If that is the case, then her profit is not in fact 30,000 Francs but rather is 30,000 Francs minus rent...Continue Reading >>
Hello Kiva Supporters! My name is Stephanie Koczela, and I am ecstatic to be headed to Uganda to spend three months with an MFI called Pearl Microfinance Limited. I am writing to you today from a bus traveling from New York to Boston. I am amused to be writing to you from this bus as it is running on a smooth road, has plugs for computer cords in each seat, and even has high speed wireless internet – it seems a far reach from the conditions I imagine I will be living in the upcoming months…
I am traveling back to Boston, where I currently live, to finish up a...Continue Reading >>