Lima, Peru is a sprawling megalopolis of nearly nine million people. Throngs of European and American tourists pass through daily, many of whom are en route to Machu Picchu. Central and residential Lima, which include the posh tourist districts as well as the middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods, have an estimated population of 2.5 million. Where, then, do the other six million residents live? Simple- in the outskirts of the city (where no tourists go). Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Kiva loans in the Lima area are made in these low-income districts, which include: Huaycan, Comas, Los Olivos, Vitarte and Huarochiri. My guess is that many Kiva lenders do not realize that these areas are located within metropolitan Lima. As a Kiva lender myself, I certainly did not.
This second week of my fellowship, I am spending time in EDAPROSPO’s Huaycan branch. Huaycan is home to predominantly Andean migrants who have left their ancestral homes to make a better living in the big city. A cloud of dust hangs over the unpaved roads where moto-taxis whiz by, dodging stray dogs as they attempt to cross the street. The American pejorative for this place would be “slum,” but I think that is a mischaracterization. These are proud people who work hard; the borrowers I have met here are incredibly resourceful and humble. Walk down the main street here any afternoon and you’ll see scores of street vendors selling everything from ceviche to pencils.
These are the entrepreneurs to whom you’re lending, and they are able to eke out a more comfortable life because of your investment in them.