by Jennifer Gong, KF9 Tanzania
The Blue Sweater is a book that recounts the experiences of Jacqueline Novogratz, social venturer and founder of the Acumen Fund. The book contains a string of stories, but the most poignant is the tale behind the title of the book. When she was young, her uncle gave her a blue sweater, which she eventually outgrew and donated away. It would turn out that the journeys of Novogratz and the blue sweater would eventually cross paths a decade later in Rwanda – She, jogging along the dusty roads of Rwanda and it, covering the small frame of an African boy.
A few weeks ago, I had my own “blue sweater” moment. I was in the Mbagala community collecting journal updates when I spotted Salehe sitting nondescriptly behind 30 other people. He would have been no different than any of the other YOSEFO clients there, except for the fact that he was sporting a dark blue cap with a large “V” in front. Instinctively I rushed over and, as I had suspected, two swords crossed over it, creating the symbol for the University of Virginia. I went to UVa, and I could not help think of the fellow student who discarded his old cap and whether if he ever thought it was going to end up as a prized possession of a Tanzanian boy. Unlike Jacquline’s blue sweater, the cap was not mine. Nevertheless, it did not fail to create a sense of wonder that in a world so vast, such a connection could be made.
A rare few will have a story like Jacqueline’s. But for those who do not have the opportunity to travel far and wide, there is Kiva. I love this organization because it allows anyone to experience a connection, a small “blue sweater” moment. In fact, it does one better. The incident revealed to Jacqueline how “our actions – and inaction – touch people we may never know and never meet across the globe”. But through Kiva, we can see who we are impacting halfway around the world. And though we may never physically meet our borrowers, the amazing journals posted by Kiva Fellows open the doors into the lives of microfinance clients all over the world.
I hope during this season, all lenders can experience and celebrate moments of connection. Happy holidays!/>