abbygray

Fellows Blog Posts by abbygray

Oct 20, 2009 TG Togo

By Abby Gray, KF6 Togo and KF7 Senegal

Jacques, WAGES' Kiva Coordinator, and a colleague taking a boat to visit a Kiva client in a rural area.

Meet Jacques.  He’s the Kiva Coordinator at WAGES, a microfinance institution (MFI) based in Togo, West Africa.  Every day, a loan officer hand-delivers a stack of borrower information forms and a USB chip full of photos.  Jacques has trained the officers how to fill out the forms, use digital cameras, and get...

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Aug 19, 2009 TG Togo

By Abby Gray, KF6 Togo and KF7 Senegal

How a Kiva Fellow Alumna’s non-profit organization, SunPower Afrique, is shedding light on MFIs in West Africa

“Beep,” complained my laptop, unhappy about its sudden switch to battery power.  The fan above me whirred gently to a stop, no longer drying the beads of sweat incessantly forming on my forehead.  “Page can not be displayed,” grumbled Firefox.  My internet connection was gone, along with any hope I had of uploading my stack of borrower profiles to the Kiva website.

I walked out into the hallway and found...

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Jul 14, 2009 SN Senegal

By Abby Gray, KF6/7, Togo & Senegal (now in New York)

In Dakar, this ad provoked vandals to rebel against the culturally inappropriate image. In New York, it wouldn't get a second glance.

If you have to deal with culture shock after 8 months of living in West Africa, New York is one of the most dramatic places to do it. On one hand, the vibrancy and energy of pedestrian-filled, trafficky New York streets isn’t all that different from the dusty...

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May 26, 2009 SN Senegal

My memories of the last eight months away from home are a jumbled mass of color, freedom, fear, patience, frustration, and energy – raw, shifting memories that have not yet arranged themselves into neat, packageable stories that I can pull from the shelf at parties when I get home.

Watching Obama's Inauguration Speech on the Togolese Roadside

I have tested my sense of self against new backgrounds, ripped away the familiar context of home to hold my idea of “Abby” up...

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Apr 29, 2009 SN Senegal

"Tea"

Over tiny cups of scalding, frothy sugar water that Senegalese people call “tea,” I have a chance daily to sit around with my fellow MFI employees and talk microfinance. The other day, I was sipping my tea with Moussa, a loan officer, and he told me about how credit is established in Senegal.  Now, in America, a credit rating is a logical thing, based on the percent of your total credit you’re using, the type, duration and size of your credits, and your...

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Mar 31, 2009 SN Senegal

Imagine that you’re a young West African woman.  You live in a small village, and you had to quit school at a young age to help your parents take care of your brothers and sisters, so employment prospects are slim.

Your grandmother approaches you with a job offer.  She tells you that, with the career that she has in mind, you could make up to $200 a day, along with gifts of palm oil, yams, and chickens.  You would be carrying on a family tradition, a religious tradition, and a cultural tradition, and the people in your town would respect you and your work.

Sounds good,...

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Mar 13, 2009 SN Senegal

Today was my first day of work at IMCEC, a Senegalese MFI based in Dakar. I’m working out of their offices in Thies, a smaller, hotter, dustier, and boringer city about an hour and a half from Dakar. IMCEC currently manages the Kiva partnership in a very decentralized way, and is having a lot of trouble meeting their $80,000 a month fundraising limit – in January they only posted $7,500-worth of loans on the Kiva site. What a waste of free capital!

Happily, they just hired a woman to manage the Kiva process. It’ll be my job to train her and...

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Jan 7, 2009 TG Togo

Three years ago, the streets I drive on today in downtown Lomé were ablaze with burning tires and barricades, as civilians protested the contested results of the presidential election. Gnassingbé Eyadéma, the longest ruling leader in Africa (second in the world only to Fidel Castro) had died on February 5, 2005. Two months later, an election pronounced his son, Faure Gnassingbé, the winner, defeating an opposition coalition of six parties.

...
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Dec 15, 2008 TG Togo

By now, the living room with blue velvet couches really does feel like home. My Togolese family members who welcome me when I walk in the house are happy to see me. They call me ta-ta, then we slap hands with a finger-snap at the end (the Togolese really love that snap – I wonder who did it first, us or them?). The adorable 1-year old, Leona, runs up with her nose crinkled in a big smile, no longer wide-eyed in fear as she was when she first saw this bizarre-looking stranger. Then I drop off my bag in my room and they either come and visit me or I go hang out with them...

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Dec 3, 2008 TG Togo

Most people reading this blog already agree that microfinance is a promising way to help people work their way out of poverty in a dignified manner. I agree, obviously, or I wouldn’t be here in Togo. It is heartwarming, and we should be inspired by it. But we should also be critical of it, to keep ourselves honest and to make sure it’s really having the effect we hope it is. In this post I will outline one of the biggest challenges facing the world of microfinance – becoming sustainable despite high administrative costs – and how Kiva and the Kiva Fellows contribute...

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